Heart Valve Problems
Some people are born with a defect in one of the heart’s four valves. Other people develop problems later in life, after infection, a heart attack, or another disease has damaged a valve. Sometimes valves become too stiff, and do not open fully. Called stenosis, these narrowed valves do not allow enough blood to get through, which strains the heart. Other times valves become leaky, not fully closing and allowing blood to flow backward.
“I had my life saved here.”
- The heart’s four main valves (mitral, tricuspid, aortic, and pulmonary) allow blood to flow only in one direction through the heart.
- Stiff valves don’t open fully, restricting the flow of blood.
- Leaky valves do not close completely, allowing blood to flow backward where it doesn’t belong.
- Shortness of breath
- Lightheadedness and fainting
- Water retention, especially with swelling in the lower body
- Chest discomfort
- Minimally-invasive surgery can repair valves without surgically separating the breast bone or stopping the heart.
- One type of minimally-invasive procedure, TAVR (Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement) uses a flexible device (called a catheter) to replace a heart valve.
- Sometimes robotics are used for more control and precision.
How We Can Help
Not all valve problems require treatment right away. Surgical treatment is indicated when heart function begins to deteriorate, with signs of heart failure including significantly reduced pumping capacity and enlargement of the heart. In these cases, valve surgery can help. During valve surgery, a physician may do any of the following:
- Trim excess tissue from valve flaps to help them seal tightly
- Add a ringlike collar at the base (annulus) of the valve for support and stabilization
- Enhance the cordlike connections of the valve to the heart
- Replace the heart valve entirely
In many cases, our surgical team performs these procedures using the most advanced minimally-invasive options. By making tiny incisions between the ribs or just under the breast bone, our surgical team can spare the sternum and sometimes also operating which the heart is still beating. Learn more about advanced minimally invasive valve surgery.