If your heart valves weaken or harden, you may require an operation to repair or replace the damaged valve.
Heart Valve Disease: Causes
Your heart has four valves, which ensure that your blood flows forward as your heart contracts and relaxes. The valves can become weak or harden. Sometimes this happens as part of the aging process; sometimes the cause is a disease such as rheumatic fever or bacterial infections.
A problem with a heart valve greatly increases the work your heart must do. Some people with weakened valves can lead normal lives, under careful medical supervision. However, others may require an operation to repair or replace the damaged valve.
Learn more about the signs and symptoms of heart valve disorders.
Types of Heart Valve Disease
There are two types of valve disease:
Stenosis occurs when a valve, becomes stiff with calcium deposits and has a problem opening. This makes it difficult for the blood to flow from chamber to chamber.
Regurgitation or insufficiency occurs when a valve has problems closing properly, which may cause blood to leak back in the wrong direction.
Heart Valve Surgery in Virginia
At Sentara, we offer two options for heart valve surgery:
Heart valve repair. Your surgeon will adjust your heart valve to help it work better. We can usually perform this surgery using minimally invasive techniques. This is often a surgeon’s first choice because it is easier on you, preserves heart muscle strength and carries a lower risk of infection. Heart valve repair is the most common minimally invasive surgery.
Heart valve replacement. Your surgeon will replace the diseased valve with a new one, either a mechanical (manmade) or biological (tissue) valve. Mechanical valves last longer but require you to take anticoagulant medication for the rest of your life to prevent blood clots around the valve. Biological valves (from pigs or human donors) do not last as long but do not require anticoagulants. Learn more about heart valve replacement surgery.
Your cardiac team will discuss your options with you and choose the approach that offers you the best outcome.
Read about the differences between valve replacement and valve repair.
Heart Valve Surgery: Sentara’s Minimally Invasive Approach
At Sentara, we strive to provide you with the least invasive cardiac procedure possible. Keep in mind that not every person is a candidate for minimally invasive surgery. Your medical team has your best outcome in mind, and they will choose the surgical approach that will be most effective for you.
At Sentara Heart Hospital, cardiothoracic surgeons use minimally invasive procedures for:
Mitral valve repair or replacement
Aortic valve repair or replacement
Tricuspid valve repair or replacement