Heart Valve Disease is treatable: an overview of its treatment and management
Heart valve disease is a condition affecting approximately one million people over the age of 65 in the UK.i It is caused by either wear, disease or damage to one or more of the heart’s valves, affecting the ﬂow of blood through the heart.ii Symptoms include shortness of breath, tiredness, chest pain and dizziness, but are sometimes hard to recognise because they may be seen as a result of the natural aging process, which can make diagnosis difficult.iii It is important that if you have any of the symptoms or are over 65 years, you ask your GP for a quick stethoscope check.
Although a serious condition, the good news is that heart valve disease is treatable if diagnosed early.iv,v With treatment, people can return to a good quality of life with their friends and family. Treatment for heart valve disease varies according to how severe the disease, your symptoms and your general health.vi But ultimately the effective ways of overcoming the disease are valve repair or replacement. Surgery may be advised if any valve is severely affected, which can significantly improve symptoms and quality of life for many people. Great progress has been made recently in less invasive procedures.
A diseased valve can either be repaired or replaced by a surgical procedure which has been proven to be very successful over many decades. More recently, a less invasive procedure called transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI) has become available for those who are considered to be at too high-risk for surgery. Your doctor will be able to advise which is the most appropriate in your case.
Traditionally, open heart surgery is used to repair or replace heart valves for more than 50 years.vii Surgery to repair the valve may involve using a ring to support the damaged valve. Alternatively, the entire valve may be removed and replaced either by a mechanical valve or one made of animal tissue. There are pros and cons of each type of valve or procedure depending on age and lifestyle. You should discuss with your physicians which valve is most appropriate for you. The less invasive procedure, TAVI, allows the replacement aortic valve to be inserted via a catheter usually through a small incision in the groin. The valve is positioned in place either through a balloon-inflation or self-expanding method. Because the replacement valve is placed using minimally invasive techniques, patients usually experience a much more rapid recovery than from surgical valve replacement.
It is important to get regular check-ups by a heart specialist or GP after undergoing treatment, and clarify what symptoms would warrant an additional check-up.viii A GP can also advise on a suitable diet and exercise routine to aid recovery.
“We have seen a lot of innovation and progress in the range of treatments available for patients with heart valve disease in the last few years, both in surgical procedures, but also with the introduction of less invasive techniques for those patients unable to undergo surgery. Patients who are diagnosed early now have a real chance of being able to return to a good quality of life,” comments Professor Philip MacCarthy, Professor of Interventional Cardiology, King’s College Hospital, London.
For more information about heart valve disease and the treatments available, please visit www.heartvalvevoice.org.
i The changing burden of heart valve disease. British Cardiovascular Society. https://www.bcs.com/pages/news_full.asp?NewsID=19792059 Accessed: August 2016
ii Heart Valve Voice. The condition. Available at: http://www.heartvalvevoice.com/heart-valve-disease/the-condition Last accessed August 2016
iii Lindroos M et al. Prevalence of aortic valve abnormalities in the elderly: an echocardiographic study of a random population sample. J Am Coll Cardiol 1993;21:1220-5
iv Heart Valve Voice. A Heart Valve Voice White Paper. Available at: http://www.heartvalvevoice.com/application/files/6714/6005/9042/White_paper.pdf Last accessed August 2016
v Heart Valve Voice, Treatment. Available at: http://www.heartvalvevoice.com/heart-valve-disease/treatment Last accessed August 2016
vi British Heart Foundation. Heart Valve Disease. Available at: https://www.bhf.org.uk/-/media/files/publications/heart-conditions/his11_0414_heart-valve-disease_a6.pdf. Last accessed August 2016
vii Heart Valve Voice. Your treatment explained. Available at: http://www.heartvalvevoice.com/patients/treatment/your-treatment-explained Last accessed August 2016
viii Heart Valve Voice. What to expect after treatment. Available at: http://www.heartvalvevoice.com/patients/after-care/what-to-expect-after-treatment Last accessed August 2016
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