Heart Valve Disorders
Many heart problems involve the heart valves – the critical "pipelines" that control blood flow in the heart. A heart valve disorder occurs when blood flow through the valves is compromised, causing the heart to work too hard.
The University of Kansas Health System provides advanced treatment for heart valve disorders. As the Kansas City region's premier academic medical center, our team uses evidence-based measures to deliver excellent outcomes.
About heart valve disorders
The heart has 4 valves that control blood flow: aortic valve, mitral valve, tricuspid valve and pulmonary valve. These valves open and close to keep blood moving in the right direction. With each squeeze, valves keep blood moving as efficiently as possible through the heart. A heart valve disorder occurs when the valves malfunction in 1 of 2 ways:
- Regurgitation or leaking: The valve doesn't close completely. This causes blood to flow backward through the valve.
- Stenosis or narrowing of the valve: The opening becomes narrow and limits blood flow.
These problems can happen separately or at the same time, and they can happen in multiple valves at a time. Both problems place additional stress on the heart and can lead to heart failure.
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Types and symptoms
Heart valve disorders can be present at birth or develop over time. Some of the most common types of heart valve disorders include:
- Mitral valve regurgitation
- Bicuspid aortic valve
- Mitral valve stenosis
- Pulmonic valve disease
- Adult congenital heart disease
A mild heart valve problem may cause no symptoms at all. Some of the symptoms of heart valve disease are the same for other heart problems. If you have any of these symptoms, you should see your doctor.
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Low or high blood pressure
- Pain in the abdomen
- Palpitations caused by irregular heartbeats
Diagnosis and treatment
The first step in diagnosis is your doctor's stethoscope. If your doctor hears a heart murmur – an abnormal sound in the heart due to turbulent blood flow across the valve – you may be asked to have cardiac diagnostic tests.
Treatments will vary depending on the type and severity of heart valve disorder. Common treatments include:
- Medical management: Your doctor may suggest medicines, diet changes, exercise and other changes that will decrease your symptoms.
- Surgery: Your valve may need to be repaired or replaced through surgery or a minimally invasive procedure.
Our cardiologists and cardiothoracic surgeons are some of the most respected heart doctors in Kansas City.
We offer multiple locations for advanced heart care in greater Kansas City, eastern Kansas and western Missouri.
Why choose us
The University of Kansas Health System offers expertise for even the most complex heart valve disorders. Our surgeons treat many patients who have been considered too high-risk by other cardiac care programs, yet our mortality rates are lower than expected. We deliver excellent outcomes by focusing on less invasive procedures, which require smaller incisions and fewer transfusions, resulting in lower complication rates.
At our hospital, you'll benefit from:
- Leading-edge imaging technology, including cardiac MRI and the high-speed Flash CT scanner
- Transesophageal echocardiograms performed in the operating room by board-certified anesthesiologists
- Specialized cardiac pre and post-operative care and cardiovascular intensive care
Our physicians are at the forefront of the newest surgical, nonsurgical and minimally invasive techniques for heart care. We offer more minimally invasive valve options than any other hospital in the region, including CoreValve® and Edwards SAPIEN®. Our physicians are highly experienced in implanting these devices.
The University of Kansas Health System is also the only MitraClip® implanting center in the region. MitraClip is a permanent implant used for patients with mitral regurgitation, a heart valve disorder that occurs when the heart's mitral valve leaflets do not close tightly. Because MitraClip uses catheter-based technology, it can be implanted without open surgery and is an option for select patients who are not candidates for surgery.
What to expect
When you visit The University of Kansas Health System, you'll receive complete testing and results on the day of your visit. You will receive coordinated care to reduce the number of appointments you need and streamline your heart care treatment. Our specialists can schedule your appointment with a cardiothoracic surgeon and cardiologist in a single visit and perform any necessary diagnostic tests at the same time.
As our patient, you'll benefit from the most current treatments. Our physicians consistently offer treatments unavailable elsewhere in the region. We are among few organizations in the nation to offer all of today's most sophisticated transcatheter valve treatments – procedures performed without open chest surgery.