Sunshine Coast University Private Hospital
Part of Ramsay Health Care

Understanding Valvular Heart Disease

Valvular Heart Disease means that one (or more) of your four heart valves is not opening or closing as it should. Dr Peter Larsen explains the symptoms, causes and treatment.

What is Valvular Heart Disease?

The heart’s job is to pump oxygen-rich blood through the body. The aortic valve controls the flow of blood as it is pumped from the heart to the rest of the body. When an aortic valve becomes narrowed with age, usually due to a build-up of calcium, the valve is unable to fully open and the heart can’t pump blood like it needs to – this is known as Aortic Stenosis.

Mitral Regurgitation occurs when your mitral valve does not close properly. The blood leaks back through the heart valve. This puts more pressure on your heart as it struggles to pump the blood through the body. 

What causes Valvular Heart Disease?

Some patients may have been born with a narrowed or leaking heart valve or it may have developed over time. It can also be caused by another health condition, such as an infection of the heart valve or rheumatic fever.

The symptoms

The symptoms of Valvular Heart Disease can include breathlessness, chest tightness, fatigue and dizziness.

While these symptoms are often mistaken for “getting older”, they should be checked out to rule out Valvular Heart Disease (or any other health condition). If you experience these symptoms, make an appointment with your GP to talk about them.

They might decide that a Cardiologist review and specialist Echocardiograph is needed to help diagnose the problem. An Echocardiograph is an ultrasound of the heart, using high frequency sound waves to create a moving picture of your heart.

How can Valvular Heart Disease be treated?

Valvular Heat Disease can be treated with medication or surgery. Some patients may need a Cardiologist to repair, widen or replace a faulty heart valve.

Two minimally invasive, “keyhole” surgical procedures that might be recommended are a Transcatheter Aortic Valve Implantation (TAVI), where a new valve is inserted through the leg artery up to the heart, or the use of a MitraClip, where a small clip is used to help your valve close properly.

Author: Dr Peter Larsen, Cardiologist