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Valvular Heart Disease (Heart Valve Disorders)

What is it?

Your heart has four different valves: Two on the right and two on the left. These valves open to let blood pass and then close to keep blood from flowing in the wrong direction.

When something is wrong with one of these valves, this means you have heart valve disease. Some people with heart valve disease are born with it, while others develop heart valve disease later in life.

Heart valves can malfunction in two ways: The valve opening may be too small, so not enough blood can pass through. This is called "stenosis." Or, the valve may not close completely, allowing blood to leak back through, a condition called "regurgitation."

What are the symptoms?

Many patients do not notice any symptoms of heart valve disease. It is possible to have severe heart valve disease without any symptoms. Also, you may have symptoms even though your heart valve disease is not serious.

Most common symptoms of heart valve disease are:

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Weakness during regular activities
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Discomfort in the chest
  • Palpitations or feeling that your heart has missed a beat
  • Swelling in ankles, feet or stomach
  • Sudden and unexplained weight gain
  • Headaches

How is it treated?

If heart valve disease is suspected, your doctor will first listen to your heart. A heart "murmur" suggests that a valve in your heart is not working correctly.

If this is the case, your doctor will recommend other tests to see if you have heart valve disease. The most commonly performed test to assess valve function is the cardiac ultrasound. These tests may be repeated over time to see how the disease is progressing.

Treatments for heart valve disease differ depending on the severity of the disease.

  • Mild heart valve disease may only require periodic monitoring by your doctor.
  • Moderate heart valve disease can often be treated successfully with medication.
  • Severe heart disease frequently requires surgery.

What is Lee Health's approach?

The Lee Health Valve Program offers the full range of treatments that are available for heart valve disease, including medication and all surgical techniques.

  • Heart valve repair involves using a patient's own tissue to fix the defective valve. Lee Health provides the most advanced procedures for heart valve repair.
  • Heart valve replacement involves putting in a new mechanism to replace a severely damaged valve. Lee Health offers the very latest options for heart valve replacement, including valves made from natural and artificial materials.
  • HealthPark Medical Center is the first site in Florida—outside of clinical trials—to offer transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR. A nonsurgical alternative to open-heart surgery, TAVR is a viable option for patients with aortic stenosis in need of valve replacement.
  • We also have the busiest da Vinci robotic surgery program in Southwest Florida, performing 30 percent of cardiac surgeries using this minimally invasive approach.

Who should I contact?

If you have symptoms of heart valve disease contact your doctor. If you do not have a doctor, call Lee Physician Group at 239-481-4111 or our cardiothoracic surgery group 239-343-6341.