Valvular Heart Disease: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Valvular Heart Disease

Valvular heart disease is a complex condition encompassing a range of abnormalities affecting the heart's four valves. When one or more of these valves functions improperly, it can hinder the heart's ability to pump blood efficiently, potentially leading to a cascade of health issues.

Tampa General Hospital’s Heart and Vascular Institute provides comprehensive care for valvular heart disease and we are proud to have been recognized as a “High Performing” hospital in Heart and Vascular care for 2023-2024 by U.S. News and World Report. Our multidisciplinary team is dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of valvular heart disease, ensuring that each patient receives the most appropriate care for their unique needs. The Institute also includes a Women’s Heart Program and Cardio-OB Program that provides care and treatment for women with all types of heart disease at all stages in life, including before, during and after pregnancies.

What Causes Valvular Heart Disease?

Valvular heart disease can arise from various causes, both congenital and acquired. Understanding what factors contribute to this condition is crucial for effective management. Common causes include:

Valvular Heart Disease Symptoms

Valvular heart disease can develop slowly over time or more suddenly, depending on the specific cause. When it develops slowly, people may not experience symptoms for many years, until the condition advances significantly. Patients who develop the disease quickly or those in advanced stages of slow-moving valvular heart disease may experience symptoms like:

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Irregular heartbeat or palpitations
  • Heart murmur
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath, especially during physical activity or while lying down
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Swelling in the ankles and feet
  • Rapid weight gain
  • Fever

Diagnosing Valvular Heart Disease

Accurate diagnosis is the foundation of effective treatment for valvular heart disease. At TGH, we employ a variety of diagnostic methods, including listening for a heart murmur, evaluating the sound and rhythm of your heartbeat and using testing such as echocardiography to see how well your heart valves are functioning.

Valvular Heart Disease Treatment Options

Our team is equipped to provide a spectrum of treatment options for valvular heart disease. The exact approach will depend on the specific diagnosis and the individual patient’s needs, but some common treatments include:

  • Lifestyle modifications – Often recommended to manage valvular heart disease, lifestyle changes can include dietary adjustments, exercise regimens and smoking cessation to reduce high blood pressure.
  • Medications – Some patients may be prescribed anticoagulants to prevent blood clots, enhancing overall heart health.
  • Valve surgery – Surgical intervention might be necessary to repair or replace a damaged valve, restoring normal cardiac function.
  • Heart transplant surgery – In cases where other treatments prove ineffective, a heart transplant may be the best option to regain lost cardiac function.

Tampa General Hospital's Heart Transplant Center is at the forefront of valvular heart disease treatment. Our partnership with the LifeLink Foundation, Inc. allows us to perform a high volume of heart transplants, with some of the shortest average transplant wait times in Florida. We are dedicated to serving high-risk patients and offer a range of options for those who may not meet transplant criteria or choose not to undergo the procedure. We specialize in providing mechanical circulatory support (MCS) and implanting ventricular assist devices (VADs) as alternatives.

Become a Patient at TGH

Our transplant team evaluates each patient with valvular heart disease to determine the most appropriate course of action. Set up an appointment with our team by calling (813) 844-3900. To learn more about our transplant selection criteria, please call 1-800-505-7769 (press 1 for the heart transplant program and ask for the referral coordinator) or contact the coordinator directly at (813) 844-4088.