You may not know it, but you depend on four tiny valves in your heart. As long as they open and close the way they were designed to with each and every heartbeat, blood flows properly, delivering oxygen throughout the body. But if something goes wrong with your heart valves, you could be in danger. Five million Americans are believed to have heart valve conditions. For those whose valve disease is severe, survival rates are alarmingly low. That is why it is so important to detect valve conditions as early as possible and apply best practice medical treatments.
The Heart Valve Program at North Florida Regional
The number of people with heart valve conditions is growing. To answer that need, we have formed The Heart Valve Program. Located on the campus of North Florida Regional Medical Center, the clinic allows all providers involved in the treatment of heart valve disease to work together for diagnosis, treatment and management. This team approach brings together cardiologists, cardiac surgeons, diagnostic technicians and a heart valve patient navigator. Working together in a single space raises the bar for advanced, quality care with a single, common goal – whatever is best for our patients.
Heart Valve Conditions
The tricuspid and pulmonic valves are on the right side of the heart, where valve diseases are less common. Because of that, we want to concentrate on valve diseases of the aortic and mitral valves on the left side of the heart.
Aortic or Mitral Regurgitation
The aortic or mitral valves do not close properly, allowing blood to leak through when it is not supposed to. To understand, think of the frame around a door. If the frame is stretched, the door will not close. It will just swing through the frame. If the aortic or mitral heart valves become stretched or deformed, they cannot close properly. Causes of aortic valve regurgitation include a congenital malformation of the valve, aortic aneurysm, degeneration of the valve or infection. Causes of mitral valve regurgitation include an enlarged heart, mitral valve prolapse and rupture of the tendons or papillary muscles in the heart which are vital in the complex process that controls valve movement.
Aortic or Mitral Stenosis
The aortic or mitral valve has an abnormal narrowing that does not allow enough blood to flow through the valve into the lungs and the rest of the body. Causes of aortic stenosis include progressive wear and tear of a bicuspid valve present since birth, wear and tear of the aortic valve in older patients and scarring of the aortic valve due to rheumatic fever as a child or young adult. The most common cause of mitral stenosis is rheumatic fever. Other causes include wear and tear of the mitral valve in older patients, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
Signs of Heart Valve Disease
Patients experiencing some or all of the following symptoms need to be evaluated. A cardiologist will recommend a thorough history and examination and an echocardiogram or ultrasound of the heart, the standard for screening of heart valve conditions.
- Shortness of breath or breathing too hard
- Chest pain and pressure or a feeling of squeezing or heaviness
- Swelling of the legs
- Fainting, dizziness, lightheadedness
- Heart murmur (turbulent flow of blood) heard by a physician
Treatment of Heart Valve Disease
Proper treatment of heart valve disease is different for each individual patient and depends upon how severe the symptoms are and how well the heart is functioning. For many patients, this may mean medications and close observation. Cardiologists who are a part of the Heart Valve Clinic provide this care and work closely with our patient navigator.
For other patients, surgical valve repair or replacement may be recommended. Mitral regurgitation can sometimes be corrected by valve repair. Many cases of aortic regurgitation, aortic stenosis and mitral stenosis must be corrected by valve replacement. For patients who need surgical valve replacement, both mechanical and tissue valves are available. Surgeons will discuss with patients about which option is best for them.
Comparing patient outcome data to national benchmarks reveals a high level of quality in valve surgery at North Florida Regional with mortality rates, complication rates and length of stay significantly better than the national average. As in coronary artery bypass surgery, valve surgery patients also benefit from a shortened amount of time on the heart lung machine.
A minority of patients who need valve replacement are not considered eligible for surgery. For these patients, a new option is now being offered in many places throughout the country. Staff of the Heart Valve Clinic are available to discuss all of these options in detail with each patient.
Contact the Heart Valve Program
The Heart Valve Program is located in Suite 101 of the Medical Arts Building on North Florida Regional Medical Center’s campus.
6400 Newberry Rd, Suite 101
Gainesville, Florida 32605
For more information about the Heart Valve Program at North Florida Regional Medical Center, please call toll-free 855-463-VALV (855-463-8258).