Heart Valve Disease

If you or a loved one suffers from heart valve disease, see the descriptions below about the kinds of disease treated by The Valve Center.

Aortic Valve

The aortic valve is located between the left ventricle (lower heart pumping chamber) and the aorta, which is the largest artery in the body. Valves maintain one-way blood flow through the heart. 

Aortic Stenosis

When the opening of the aortic valve narrows, the result is lower blood flow. As aortic stenosis worsens, the condition can become life-threatening. This disease may begin due to an infection, rheumatic fever, or a hereditary issue. If you live with aortic stenosis, you may experience symptoms like chest pain, fatigue, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, or difficulty during exercise.

Valve Open    Valve Closed
Fig. 1 The leaflets of a healthy aortic heart valve open wide to allow oxygenated blood to flow unobstructed through the valve into the aorta where it flows out to the rest of the body.   Fig. 2 The leaflets of a stenotic or calcified aortic heart valve are unable to open wide, obstructing blood flow from the left ventricle into the aorta. The narrowed valve allows less oxygenated blood to flow through and as a result, less oxygen-rich blood is pumped out to the body which may cause symptoms like severe shortness of breath.

The Mitral Valve 

Blood that flows between different chambers of your heart must flow through a valve. The valve between the two chambers on the left side of your heart is called the mitral valve. It opens up enough so that blood can flow from the upper chamber of your heart (left atria) to the lower chamber (left ventricle). It then closes, keeping blood from flowing backwards.

Mitral Stenosis/Rheumatic Heart Disease

Mitral stenosis means that the valve cannot open enough. As a result, less blood flows to the body. The upper heart chamber swells as pressure builds up. Blood and fluid may then collect in the lung tissue, making it hard to breathe.

In adults, mitral stenosis occurs most often in people who have had rheumatic fever. This is a disease that can develop after an illness with strep throat that was not properly treated.

The valve problems develop 5 - 10 years or more after having rheumatic fever. Symptoms may not show up for even longer. Rheumatic fever is becoming rare in the United States because strep infections are most often treated. This has made mitral stenosis less common.

Mitral Regurgitation

When the mitral valve doesn’t close correctly, blood leaks back into the left atrium of the heart. Mitral regurgitation is the most common form of heart valve disease, and patients with this condition may experience a heart murmur, shortness of breath, fatigue, swollen feet or ankles, lightheadedness, or other symptoms. Though mild cases may never pose a serious risk, severe cases will cause heart complications and require a surgical response.