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Valvular Heart Disease

Valvular heart disease is the name given to any dysfunction or abnormality of one or more of the heart's four valves. There are a number of types of valvular heart disease, including:

  • Valvular Stenosis – A condition in which there is a narrowing, stiffening, thickening, fusion or blockage of one or more valves of the heart. As a result, the defective valve can interfere with the smooth passage of blood through it. Depending on which valve is affected, the diagnosis may be aortic stenosis, mitral stenosis, pulmonic stenosis or tricuspid stenosis.
  • Valvular Regurgitation – A condition in which blood leaks back in the wrong direction because one or more of the heart's valves is closing improperly. The nature and severity of the leakage, in turn, may keep the heart from circulating an adequate amount of blood through the defective valve. Depending on which valve is affected, the diagnosis may be aortic regurgitation, mitral regurgitation, pulmonary regurgitation or tricuspid regurgitation.
  • Atresia of One of the Valves – A serious condition in which one of the valves has failed to develop properly and is completely closed at birth. Depending on which valve is affected, the diagnosis may be aortic atresia, mitral atresia, pulmonary atresia or tricuspid atresia.
  • Mitral Valve Prolapse – A common and rarely serious condition in which the two flaps of the mitral valve (located between the left atrium and the left ventricle cannot close properly, and may result in blood leaking back into the left atrium (mitral valve regurgitation). It is due to either one (or both) of the flaps being too large, or because the muscle "hinges" of the flaps are too long.

Treatment for valvular heart disease depends on the type and severity of the diagnosis. People with minor valve problems may not require treatment. Those with more serious disorders can often be treated successfully with medications such as, ACE inhibitors, antiarrhythmics, antibiotics, anticoagulants, diuretics or inotropes.

If medications are not successful or a valve condition worsens interventional procedures and/or surgery may be necessary. These may include heart valve repair or replacement.