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  • Writer's pictureCharis Costopoulos

Understanding Valvular Heart Disease: Common Symptoms and Treatment Options

In this section Dr Charis Costopoulos, a renowned cardiology specialist in valvular heart disease explains common valvular heart disease conditions, their symptoms and different treatment options.

The heart is a remarkable organ that pumps blood throughout our bodies, supplying oxygen and nutrients to every cell. It consists of four chambers, each separated by valves that ensure blood flows in the right direction. However, sometimes these valves can become damaged or diseased, leading to a condition known as valvular heart disease.

Valvular heart disease occurs when one or more of the heart's valves are not functioning properly. There are five main types of valvular heart disease: aortic stenosis, mitral regurgitation, mitral stenosis, aortic regurgitation and tricuspid regurgiration. Each type affects a different valve and has its own set of symptoms and treatment options.

Aortic stenosis is the most common form of valvular heart disease. It occurs when the aortic valve, which separates the left ventricle from the aorta, becomes narrowed or stiff. This restricts blood flow from the heart to the rest of the body, leading to symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, and fatigue. Aortic stenosis is often caused by age-related degeneration or a congenital heart defect.

Mitral regurgitation, on the other hand, happens when the mitral valve, located between the left atrium and left ventricle, fails to close properly. This allows blood to flow backward into the atrium, reducing the amount of blood pumped out to the body. Symptoms of mitral regurgitation include fatigue, shortness of breath, and a rapid or irregular heartbeat. It can be caused by conditions such as mitral valve prolapse, rheumatic fever, or heart attack.

Mitral stenosis occurs when the mitral valve becomes narrowed or stiff, preventing blood from flowing properly from the left atrium to the left ventricle. This can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, coughing, and swelling in the legs and ankles. Mitral stenosis is often caused by rheumatic fever, a complication of untreated strep throat.

Aortic regurgitation occurs when the aortic valve fails to close tightly, allowing blood to leak back into the left ventricle. This can lead to symptoms such as chest pain, fatigue, and shortness of breath. Aortic regurgitation can be caused by conditions such as high blood pressure, infection, or connective tissue disorders.

Lastly, tricuspid regurgitation happens the tricuspid valve, located between the right atrium and right ventricle fails to close properly. This results in blood flowing backward to the peripheral vasculature often resulting in water retention and oedema.

Treatment options for valvular heart disease depend on the severity of the condition and the impact it has on the patient's daily life. In mild cases, medication may be prescribed to manage symptoms and prevent further complications. However, in more severe cases, surgical or key-hole intervention may be necessary.

Valve repair or replacement surgery is a common treatment for valvular heart disease. During this procedure, the damaged valve is either repaired or replaced with a mechanical or biological valve. Mechanical valves are durable but require lifelong blood-thinning medication, while biological valves are made from animal tissue and do not require blood thinners.

In recent years, minimally invasive procedures such as transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVI) and mitral valve transcatheter edge to edge repair (also known as TEER and commonly referred to as MitraClip) have become increasingly popular. TAVI involves inserting a new valve through a small incision in the groin or chest, eliminating the need for open-heart surgery. This procedure is often recommended for patients who are of advanced age (over the age of 75) or high risk for traditional valve replacement surgery. MitraClip or TEER involves bringing the anterior and posterior leaflets together in attempt to reduce the leak from the mitral valve. The same treatment can also be applied in

In conclusion, valvular heart disease is a condition that affects the proper functioning of the heart's valves. It can lead to a range of symptoms and complications, but with advancements in medical technology, there are now various treatment options available. If you experience any symptoms of valvular heart disease, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan. Dr Charis Costopoulos is available for consultations at OneWelbeck Heart Health, One Heart and Royal Papworth Hospital.


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