The valves of the heart are responsible for allowing nutrient-rich blood to flow through the chambers of your heart. Each valve is supposed to close completely after ushering in blood flow. Diseased heart valves aren’t always able to perform the job as well as they should.
Stenosis, or a narrowing of the blood vessels, causes a less-than-normal amount of blood to flow to the heart. This causes the muscle to work harder. Leaky valves can also pose a problem. Instead of closing tightly, a valve may remain slightly open, letting blood flow backwards. This is called regurgitation. The signs of valvular heart disease can include:
Heart valve repair is also a solution for valvular heart disease. In some people, the damage is too far advanced and a total replacement of the affected valve is the only option.
Valvular heart disease is a form of heart disease that occurs when one or more of the heart’s four valves don’t function properly. Valve replacement surgery may be an option if the valves of your heart are too fragile, scarred, or otherwise damaged to repair.
Mechanical and biologic valves are used to replace faulty valves. Mechanical valves are artificial components that have the same purpose as a natural heart valve. They’re created from carbon and polyester materials that the human body tolerates well. They can last between 10 and 20 years. However, one of the risks associated with mechanical valves is blood clots. If you receive a mechanical heart valve, you’ll need to take blood thinners for the rest of your life to reduce your risk of stroke.
Biologic valves, also called bioprosthetic valves, are created from human or animal tissue. There are three types of biologic heart valves:
Biologic valves don’t increase your risk of developing blood clots. This means you most likely won’t need to commit to a lifetime of anti-clotting medication. A bioprosthetic doesn’t last as long as a mechanical valve and may require replacement at a future date.
Your doctor will recommend which type of heart valve you get based on:
The aortic valve is on the left side of the heart and serves as an outflow valve. Its job is to allow blood to leave the left ventricle, which is the heart’s main pumping chamber. Its job is also to close so that blood doesn’t leak back into the left ventricle. You may need surgery on your aortic valve if you have a congenital defect or disease that causes stenosis or regurgitation.
The most common type of congenital abnormality is a bicuspid valve. Normally, the aortic valve has three sections of tissue, known as leaflets. This is called a tricuspid valve. A defective valve has only two leaflets, so it’s called a bicuspid valve. A recent study found that aortic valve replacement surgery has a 94 percent five-year survival rate. Survival rates depend on:
The mitral valve is located on the left side of the heart. It serves as an inflow valve. Its job is to allow blood from the left atrium to flow into the left ventricle. Surgery may be required if the valve doesn’t fully open or completely close. When the valve is too narrow, it can make it difficult for blood to enter. This can cause it to back up, causing pressure in the lungs. When the valve doesn’t close properly, blood can leak back into the lungs. This can be due to a congenital defect, infection, or a degenerative disease.
The defective valve will be replaced with either a metal artificial valve or a biological valve. The metal valve will last a lifetime but requires you to take blood thinners. The biological valve lasts between 15 to 20 years, and you won’t be required to take medication that thins your blood. The five-year survival rate is about 91 percent. The following also play a role in survival rate: