OVERVIEW | SYMPTOMS | DIAGNOSIS | TREATMENT
People who have no symptoms or only minimal symptoms may not need treatment. Others do well with medicines that ease the pain of symptoms, but medicine cannot cure valve disease. If the condition gets worse, becomes hard to control, or the medicine no longer works, a percutaneous intervention or surgery may be needed.
Texas Heart® Institute at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital is one of only three Texas sites in a clinical trial that is evaluating the safety and effectiveness of the transcatheter aortic valve, CoreValve. This is a non-surgical, minimally invasive technique to treat severe aortic stenosis, a life-threatening heart valve disease. Patients who are considered at high risk or ineligible for aortic valve surgery may be considered for the clinical trial. For more information about the clinical trial, call 832-355-9301.
Not much can be done to prevent valve disease, but it is still important to live a heart-healthy lifestyle and control as many risk factors as you can:
Avoid getting rheumatic fever, which comes from a bacterial infection like strep throat. Throat infections should be diagnosed early, and you should finish all of the medicine that your doctor gives you to stop the infection from coming back.
When you have valve disease, tell your dentist or doctor before you have a dental or surgical procedure. If you do not take an antibiotic medicine before a dental or surgical procedure, you may increase your risk of developing an infection in the inner lining of your heart called infective endocarditis.
Medicines are given to ease the pain of your symptoms, reduce the workload on your heart, and regulate your heart's rhythm. The following medicines are most often prescribed:
- Digitalis. Reduces the workload on your heart and eases some of the symptoms of valve disease.
- Diuretics. Can lower the salt and fluid levels in your body. Diuretics also reduce swelling and ease the workload on your heart.
- Antiplatelet therapy. Prevents blood clots from forming.
- Anticoagulant medicines. Prevent blood clots, especially in patients who have had heart valve surgery and have a prosthetic valve made of synthetic material.
- Beta-blockers. Control your heart rate and lower your blood pressure.
- Calcium channel blockers. Affect the contractions of muscle tissue in your heart. By lowering your blood pressure and reducing the workload on your heart, calcium channel blockers may put off the need for heart valve surgery.
- Balloon valvuloplasty. A procedure that may be used to open narrowed tricuspid and pulmonary valves, a narrowed mitral valve, and, rarely, the aortic valve. The procedure works on valves in the same way balloon angioplasty does on the arteries. A balloon-tipped catheter is inserted into the valve. When the balloon is inflated, it pushes back any deposits along the edge of the valve, making the central area of the valve larger. The catheter and deflated balloon are then removed from the valve.
Surgery is the most invasive option for the treatment of valve disease. During surgery, valves may either be repaired or replaced.
Repair may involve opening a narrowed valve by removing calcium deposits or reinforcing a valve that doesn't close properly. Repair may also be used to treat congenital defects and defects of the mitral valve.
Replacement is used to treat any diseased valve that cannot be repaired. It involves removing a defective valve and stitching in its place a prosthetic valve. Prosthetic valves can either be mechanical (made from materials such as plastic, carbon, or metal) or biological (made from human or animal tissue). Mechanical valves increase the risk of blood clots forming on the new valve. Patients with mechanical heart valves will need to take blood-thinning medicines for the rest of their lives.
Valve surgery is usually an open heart technique. In some patients, surgeons can repair or replace heart valves using minimally invasive techniques, but it will be up to your doctor to decide if you are a good candidate for minimally invasive surgery.
Learn more about the following on the website for Texas Heart® Institute, TexasHeart.org.
Find a Heart Specialist: (832) 355-DOCS (3627)
International Patients: (832) 355-3350