Aortic Disease (Heart Valve Disorders)
The heart includes four valves (tricuspid, pulmonary, mitral and aortic) that 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.
Heart valve disorders can result from two types of malfunctions: Regurgitation and stenosis. Regurgitation (or leakage) occurs when the valve does not close completely, causing the blood to flow backward through the valve. The heart is forced to pump more blood on the next beat, making it work harder. Stenosis (or narrowing of the valve) occurs when the valve opening becomes narrowed, limiting the flow of blood out of the ventricles or atria. The heart has to work harder to move blood through the narrowed or stiff (stenotic) valve(s).
In some instances, heart valves can develop both malfunctions at the same time. Also, more than one heart valve can be affected at the same time. When heart valves fail to open and close properly, the implications for the heart can be serious, possibly hampering the heart’s ability to pump blood adequately through the body. Heart valve problems are one cause of heart failure.
Mild heart valve disease may not cause any symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms of heart valve disease may include chest pain, palpitations caused by irregular heartbeats, fatigue, dizziness, low or high blood pressure, shortness of breath, among others.
The mitral and aortic valves are most often affected by heart valve disease. Some of the more common heart valve diseases include bicuspid aortic valve disease, mitral valve prolapse, mitral valve stenosis, aortic valve stenosis, and pulmonary stenosis.
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 disease. To further define the type of valve disease and extent of the valve damage, doctors may use an electrocardiogram (EKG), echocardiogram, transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE), chest X-ray, cardiac catheterization, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Treatment varies, depending on the type of heart valve disease, and may include medication, surgery (including aortic valve replacement) or heart valve repair; or nonsurgical procedures such as balloon valvuloplasty.Previous Page Last Review Date: August 14, 2019