For Patients

Question

Answer

What are the symptoms of valvular heart disease?

It is possible to have severe valve disease and no symptoms, or symptoms at times could result from a small valve leak.  Typically valve disease advances slowly and the heart may adjust and one may not notice the onset of symptoms.  Many of the symptoms are similar to those with congestive heart failure which are  shortness of breath, swelling of the hands, feet, ankles or abdomen, palpitations, mild chest pain, fatique, dizziness or fainting. 

What causes valvular heart disease?

Some diseases may be congenital (present at birth) or may develop over a period of years.  Valve diesase or damage to heart valves can be attributed to a heart attack, atheroslerosis and high blood pressure, endocarditis (an infection of the inner lining of the heart muscle and valves), Rheumatic fever or heart tissue may degenerate with age.

How is valve disease diagnosed?

Echocardiography is often used when evaluating a patient for valvular disease.  An echcardiography is a ultrasound of the heart and provides important information on the stucture and function of the heart muscle and valves.

What tests may be needed to detect valve disease.

In addition to the echocardiography, a CPX or cardiopulmonary function test will be ordered.  The CPX helps determine how the heart and lungs work together and determine any cause of fatigue.  Cardiac PET scan may also be ordered.  This provides a superior image  of both the anatomical structures within the body and the metabolic activity occurring in those structures.  Cardiac catheterization may also be necessary.