How is valvular heart disease diagnosed?
Valvular heart disease (VHD) is usually diagnosed using the following tests:
- Physical examination - which may reveal a murmur, evidence of heart enlargement and fluids within the lungs.
- Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) - a test that records the electrical activity of the heart and detects heart muscle damage. It may also reveal arrhythmias and/or chamber enlargement.
- Echocardiography - creates a two-dimensional picture of the cardiovascular system and can accurately assess the velocity of blood and cardiac tissue at any arbitrary point using pulsed or continuous wave Doppler ultrasound.
- MRI - can provide clear three-dimensional images of the heart and its valves.
How is valvular heart disease treated?
Treatment for valvular heart disease depends on the type and severity of the diagnosis. People with minor valve problems may not require treatment. Those with more serious disorders can often be treated successfully with medications.
If medications are not successful or a valve condition worsens, interventional procedures and/or surgery may be necessary. These may include heart valve repair or replacement.
The following procedures are used for heart valve repair:
- Percutaneous balloon valvuloplasty - a non-surgical, catheter-based procedure to treat valvular stenosis.
- Valvulotomy - a type of open-heart surgery in which a surgeon cuts into a valve to repair valvular damage.
- Minimally invasive heart valve surgery - a surgical repair of a defective heart valve performed through a small incision (3.5 inches) involving less risk, fewer complications, less bleeding and faster recovery.
- Heart valve surgery - if heart valve repair is not an option, an open-heart surgery may be performed in which a biological or mechanical valve is used to replace a defective heart valve.
Frequently asked questions about valvular heart disease.