Millions of people worldwide have heart valve disease. Yet faulty heart valves can often be repaired or replaced. So, if you notice the symptoms of heart valve disease, talk to your doctor.
Globally, heart valve disease is on the increase for two reasons:1
- Degenerative valve disease occurs as the population ages in developed countries
- There is not adequate treatment of rheumatic heart disease in the developing world
Because heart valve disease occurs more often as people age, the number of people needing heart valve replacement is rising over time. Researchers estimate that more than 800,000 heart valve procedures will be performed annually, worldwide, by 2050.1,2
MEDICATIONS FOR HEART VALVE DISEASE
Your doctor may prescribe medication to treat your symptoms and help avoid further damage to the heart valves. Common medications include:
- Diuretics—to help remove excess fluid from the body
- Antiarrhythmic medications—to help ensure a stable heart rhythm
- Vasodilators and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors—to relax the muscle in blood vessel walls, which allows the vessels to widen and enables more blood flow
- Beta blockers—to treat high blood pressure and slow the heartbeat
- Blood thinners (anticoagulants)—to reduce the risk of clots forming in the blood
Be sure to take any medications as directed, and talk to your doctor if you have questions.
HEART VALVE REPAIR
For many people, a surgical procedure can repair a heart valve. Your doctor may use one of the following techniques to repair your heart valve.
Valvuloplasty: This is done to open a stiff (stenotic) heart valve. During the procedure your doctor inserts a small, narrow tube (a catheter) into a blood vessel in the upper thigh (the groin area) and advances it through the blood vessel and into the heart. When the catheter reaches the stiff valve, the doctor inflates a balloon at the tip of the catheter until the flaps (leaflets) of the valve are pushed opened. The doctor then deflates the balloon and removes the catheter.
Commissurotomy: This is a type of open-heart surgery to repair mitral valve stenosis. To open the valve, the surgeon removes calcium deposits and other scar tissue from the mitral valve leaflets. The surgeon may also cut parts of the valve structure to ensure that the valve opens and closes properly.
Annuloplasty: This is performed to repair the tissue at a heart valve’s base, or annulus. Sometimes the annulus becomes widened and dilated, allowing blood to leak backward through the valve (regurgitation). The surgeon sews a ring (or band) to the existing annulus of the valve. Doctors may perform annuloplasty alone or in combination with other techniques to repair a heart valve.
Another type of mitral valve repair is described farther down on this page.