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Living a Full and Healthy Life After Heart Valve Surgery

Each year in the United States, more than five million Americans are diagnosed with heart valve disease, which occurs when one or more heart valves do not open or close properly.

A person’s heart has four valves: aortic, mitral, pulmonary and tricuspid. These valves help to channel blood flow through the chambers of the heart and into the rest of the body. Valves are prone to various medical problems that can affect the way they function – resulting in narrowing or leakage – which disrupts normal circulation patterns.

This leads to various symptoms such as progressive shortness of breath, swelling of the legs, chest pain, lightheadedness or blackouts, resulting in the patient being unable to perform daily activities, recurrent hospitalizations, and potential death from heart failure and associated complications.

Common Heart Valve Problems

The most common valve problems are those of the aortic and mitral valves, which are also the two most commonly repaired or replaced valves. The narrowing of these valves – known as stenosis – is a challenging and potentially life-threatening condition.

A patient with aortic stenosis will eventually need an aortic valve replacement, which is currently performed with open heart surgery in patients who are deemed as low risk for such surgery. It can also be performed during a minimally invasive procedure known as TAVR, in which a catheter is inserted through a small incision in the groin.

The TAVR procedure is performed like a heart catheterization and most patients can go home within 24 hours of the procedure. Leakage in the aortic valve – known as aortic valve regurgitation – is currently treated with a surgical valve replacement.

Mitral stenosis – usually the result of rheumatic heart disease – is usually repaired with a minimally invasive procedure known as a balloon valvuloplasty, in which a balloon is inflated at the tip of a catheter to widen the valve and improve blood flow.

Mitral valve regurgitation – or leakage – is a more common condition and typically requires surgery to repair or replace the valve. Patients deemed high risk for open heart surgery may instead undergo a catheter-based procedure, the Mitraclip, which is performed through a small incision in the groin.

The Mitraclip procedure uses innovative technology to repair the mitral valve without open heart surgery. After this procedure, most patients leave the hospital within 24 hours. This procedure helps to reduce hospitalization time and symptoms of heart failure, such as shortness of breath and leg swelling. Saint Joseph Hospital has been performing the Mitraclip procedure since 2013.

If you are suffering from heart valve disease or have symptoms of this disease, it is important to speak to your physician immediately to determine the cause of the problem.

To learn more about heart valve replacements, contact CHI Saint Joseph Medical Group - Cardiology. The practice is located at 1401 Harrodsburg Road, Suite A-300 in Lexington, and can be reached by calling 859.276.4429.

Nezar Falluji, MD, MPH

Dr. Falluji is with the CHI Saint Joseph Medical Group – Cardiology.

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