Valvular and structural heart diseases develop when at least 1 of the 4 heart valves don’t circulate blood as well as they should, leading to conditions like stenosis, prolapse and regurgitation. Whenever possible, we use the latest minimally invasive treatments to get your health back on track.
Directing the stop and go of your body's blood flow
Think of your heart like a 4-way intersection and each valve as a traffic light. Your 4 valves are responsible for pumping blood in the correct direction away from your heart. As they open and contract to let blood pass through, this creates what you know as a heartbeat.
When your heart valves aren’t working properly, it can have a serious effect on your health. In fact, a faulty heart valve is one of the leading causes of heart failure, which affects 2.5% of the US population.
Whether you’ve lived with a valvular disease since birth or developed one more recently, we can help you restore your heart health with a treatment plan that’s uniquely you.
We treat the following valvular and structural heart conditions:
Each valve plays an important role. Your heart’s 4 valves include the:
- Mitral valve
- Tricuspid valve
- Aortic valve
- Pulmonary valve
The mitral and tricuspid valves control blood flow between the atria (upper chambers of the heart) and ventricles (lower chambers). Whereas the pulmonary and aortic valves manage blood flow from the ventricles to the arteries throughout your body.
At Tufts Medicine, we treat the 3 main types of heart valve diseases:
- Stenosis: When a valve opening becomes narrow or stiff, which makes it harder for blood to flow freely.
- Prolapse: A valve isn’t closing properly or has slipped out of place.
- Regurgitation: When blood leaks backward into one of the heart’s chambers. Regurgitation is often connected to prolapse.
Congenital vs. acquired valvular heart disease
Valvular heart disease can be something you're born with (congenital) or developed over time (acquired).
The most common symptom of congenital heart disease is a whooshing, whistling or rumbling sound called a heart murmur. Your doctor can hear this when they’re using a stethoscope. This heart murmur is also a telltale sign pointing to a heart valve disease.
Acquired heart valve diseases are caused by factors like:
- Bacterial infections
- Family history
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- High cholesterol
- Inactive lifestyle
- Rheumatic disease
We turn to the following cardiovascular imaging tests to get a clear picture of your heart and blood vessels, allowing us to better detect and diagnose valvular diseases:
- Cardiac MRI
- CT scan
- Echocardiogram (“echo”)
- Stress echocardiogram
- Electrocardiogram (EKG)
- Nuclear medicine
We’ll decide on the right test for you based on your symptoms, medical history and family health history.
Once we’ve discovered the type of valvular or structural heart disease you’re living with, we’ll work together to develop a treatment plan that meets your unique needs. We may recommend a combination of medication and surgery to help get your blood flowing freely.
Whenever possible, our cardiac surgeons may choose a minimally invasive procedure over an open heart surgery to treat your heart valves. So what sets minimally invasive surgery apart from traditional methods?
- A lower risk of infection and complications
- Quicker recovery times
- Less blood loss
For more severe or complex cases of valvular heart disease, open heart surgery may be your best treatment approach. Rest assured, we always have your best interest at heart.
Interventional cardiology is a medical specialty that treats heart and blood vessel conditions — including valvular heart disease — using catheters.
Transcatheter mitral valve repair (TMVR) with MitraClip
The TMVR with MitraClip™ procedure allows us to close a leaky valve (also known as regurgitation) so that your heart doesn’t have to work overtime pumping blood to the rest of your body.
During the procedure, we’ll make a small incision in the thigh to access the femoral artery. Using an imaging device like an X-ray or ultrasound, we thread the catheter through the vein and up to the mitral valve in your heart. The MitraClip™ follows the catheter up to your heart, where it then clips the valves together. The doctor wraps up the procedure by removing the catheter.
Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR)
Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) is a smart treatment option for people who are living with aortic stenosis.
During TAVR, a prosthetic valve is delivered to the heart via a catheter, and then expands. As the new valve expands, it pushes your diseased valve out of the way and takes over the job of regulating blood flow.
Try working these heart-healthy habits into your daily routine to reduce your risk of valvular heart disease, and potentially add years to your life:
- Avoid or treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes
- Don’t smoke
- Eat a good diet
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain a healthy weight