The heart consists of four chambers, two atria (upper chambers) and two ventricles (lower chambers). There is a valve through which blood passes before leaving each chamber of the heart. The valves prevent the backward flow of blood. They act as one-way inlets of blood on one side of a ventricle and one-way outlets of blood on the other side of a ventricle. The four heart valves include the Tricuspid valve, located between the right atrium and the right ventricle, the Pulmonary (pulmonic) valve, located between the right ventricle and the pulmonary artery, the Mitral valve, located between the left atrium and the left ventricle and the Aortic valve, located between the left ventricle and the aorta.
What is heart valve disease?
Valvular heart disease occurs when the valves of your heart do not function properly. Valvular heart disease can be caused by valvular “stenosis” or valvular “insufficiency”.
Stenosis – Narrowing of the Valve
In valvular stenosis , the tissues forming the valve leaflets become stiffer, narrowing the valve opening and reducing the amount of blood that can flow through it. If the narrowing is insignificant, the overall functioning of the heart may not be reduced. However, if the valve become so narrow, or “stenotic”, heart function can be reduced, and the rest of the body may not receive adequate oxygenated blood flow.
Regurgitation – Leakage of the Valve
Another valvular heart disease condition, called valvular insufficiency, sometimes called “regurgitation”, incompetence, “leaky valve”, occurs when the leaflets do not close completely, letting blood leak backward across the valve. This backward flow is referred to as “regurgitant flow.”
What are the symptoms of heart valve disease?
Mild heart valve disease may not present with any signs or symptoms. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently and symptoms may vary depending on the type of heart valve disease present and may include, chest pain, shortness of breath, palpitations, fatigue, dizziness, low or high blood pressure or abdominal pain.
Symptoms of heart valve disease may resemble other medical conditions and problems.
What causes heart valve damage?
There are many types of valve disease. Valve disease can be congenital (present at birth) or may be acquired later in life. Sometimes the cause of valve disease may be unknown.
The known causes of heart valve damage vary depending on the type of disease present, and may include a history of rheumatic fever, endocarditis, coronary artery disease, heart attack, cardiomyopathy, hypertension, aortic aneurisms and some types of medications and radiation.
How is heart valve disease diagnosed?
Heart valve disease may be suspected if the heart sounds heard through a stethoscope are abnormal. This is usually the first step in diagnosing a heart valve disorder. A characteristic heart murmur (abnormal sounds in the heart due to turbulent blood flow across the valve) can often indicate valve regurgitation or stenosis. To further define the type of valve disease and extent of the valve damage, Dr. Khoo may use any of the following diagnostic procedures:
Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG). A test that records the electrical activity of the heart, shows abnormal rhythms (arrhythmias or dysrhythmias), and can sometimes detect heart muscle damage.
Echocardiogram . A noninvasive test that uses sound waves to evaluate the heart’s chambers and valves. The echo sound waves create an image on a monitor as an ultrasound transducer is passed over the heart.
Transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE). A diagnostic procedure that involves passing a small ultrasound transducer down into the esophagus. The sound waves create an image of the valves and chambers of the heart on a computer monitor without the ribs or lungs getting in the way.
Chest X-ray. A diagnostic test that uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film. An X-ray can show enlargement in any area of the heart.
Cardiac Catheterization. This diagnostic procedure involves the insertion of a tiny, hollow tube (catheter) through a large artery in the leg or arm leading to the heart in order to provide images of the heart and blood vessels. This procedure is helpful in determining the type and extent of certain valve disorders.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). A diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body.
What is the treatment for heart valve disease?
In some cases, the treatment for heart valve disease may be careful monitoring and medical supervision. However, other available treatment options include medication, surgery to repair the valve, or surgery to replace the valve. Specific treatment will be determined by Dr. Khoo based on your age, overall medical history, extent of the disease, location of the valve and your specific signs and symptoms.
We encourage you to ask as many questions as necessary until you are confident that you understand your heart condition, medications or procedures you may be considering.
In her practice as a top heart doctor in Albuquerque, Dr. Michelle Khoo wants you to be informed, comfortable and confident about your treatment plan.
Quality Healthcare is at the Heart of Everything We Do.
To schedule a consultation with Dr. Khoo call 1-505-248-1802 or click here to request an appointment online.
Khoo & Associates Cardiology and Wellness is a boutique Cardiovascular Health & Wellness practice that is focused on delivering outstanding, comprehensive and ethical cardiovascular care to patients in Albuquerque and the surrounding counties of Bernalillo, Sandoval, Torrance and Valencia in New Mexico.
Our experienced and dedicated team offers our patients the combined collective experience and knowledge necessary to ensure the highest level of patient care in two convenient office locations – Downtown Albuquerque and Rio Rancho.