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Heart Valve Disease

When one of your heart valves does not work properly, you have heart valve disease. Baystate Health offers patients with valve disease state-of-the-art treatment options, right here in Western Massachusetts.

Valves in your heart work like one-way doors. They let blood move from one heart chamber to the next, in one direction. Each valve has flaps that open and close once during each heartbeat. If these valves don't open or close properly, the blood flow through your heart is disrupted.

Your heart has four valves:

  • Mitral valve, which is between the left atrium and left ventricle.
  • Aortic valve, which is between the left ventricle and aorta.
  • Tricuspid valve, which is between the right atrium and the right ventricle.
  • Pulmonic valve, which is between the right ventricle and the lungs.

The most common types of heart valve disease include:

  • Regurgitation: When the valve doesn’t close tightly, blood leaks backward instead of flowing forward. This condition often occurs when the flaps bulge back, also known as prolapse.
  • Stenosis: When the valve thickens or fuses with other tissue, it can’t open all the way. This keeps blood from flowing freely through the valve.
  • Atresia: This is a congenital heart disease. It occurs when the valve doesn’t develop properly for blood to flow through.

Risk Factors

You may be born with valve disease. Or you may develop it because you have other conditions that affect the size or flexibility of your heart valves.

You are at greater risk for developing valve disease if you have:

  • A history of certain untreated infections, including strep throat
  • Had rheumatic fever
  • A history of certain heart diseases or of heart attack
  • High blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes
  • Had certain cancer or chemotherapy treatments
  • An autoimmune disease

Diagnosis

In addition to a physical exam, you might need these tests to diagnose an irregular heart beat:

  • Echocardiogram
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)
  • Chest X-ray
  • Cardiac MRI

Treatment

Treatment for heart valve disease can range from lifestyle changes and medication to surgery.

Your Baystate Health cardiologist will recommend healthy habits, like quitting smoking, eating better, and managing your weight. You may be a candidate for medication to ease any symptoms.

If additional treatment is needed, your doctor may recommend a heart valve surgery. Your cardiovascular surgeon will work closely with you to determine the best surgery for you. Mitral and tricuspid valves are commonly repaired if possible. Aortic valve disease is typically treated with a valve replacement.