When a patient is diagnosed with valvular heart disease, it means that an abnormality in one of the four heart valves is causing the heart to pump blood less efficiently. This diagnosis is actually an umbrella term, as there are several types of valve defects that can affect blood flow. In some cases, a defect results in narrowing of the valve, preventing enough blood from passing through. In other instances, a defect can cause the valve to close improperly, allowing blood to flow backwards through the typically one-way valve (a condition known as regurgitation).
Resulting symptoms may include feeling tired, experiencing dizziness, and having heart palpitations. Problems with heart valves can be present at birth, but they are more frequently diagnosed in older patients whose hearts have been damaged over time. Such damage may result from age-related tissue deterioration, heart attacks, high blood pressure, rheumatic fever, and other conditions. No matter the cause, the heart may grow larger and less elastic to compensate for the reduced blood flow, a process that can cause additional complications such as an increased risk for stroke or pulmonary embolism. Treatment for valvular heart disease will vary depending on the specific diagnosis, as well as the individual patient, but here are some of the approaches available:
- Making lifestyle changes – Reducing high blood pressure through healthy eating, exercise, and avoiding smoking is often recommended.
- Taking anti-coagulants – Some patients may take medications to reduce the likelihood of blood clots in the lungs or brain.
- Valve surgery – In some cases, surgery to repair or replace a valve may be an effective treatment.
- Heart transplant surgery – If a patient’s condition progresses beyond the point where other therapies are ineffective, he or she may require a heart transplant to restore the lost cardiac function.
Tampa General Hospital’s Heart Transplant Program can provide treatment for patients with valvular heart disease and other cardiac conditions. Thanks in part to our partnership with the organ procurement organization LifeLink Foundation, Inc., we perform a high volume of heart transplants, and we have some of the shortest average times to transplant among transplant centers in the state of Florida.
Although we are known for accepting high-risk patients that other centers may have turned away, we also provide options for patients who may not meet the conditions for transplant (or who choose not to undergo the procedure). For example, we are a leader in providing mechanical circulatory support (MCS) and implanting ventricular assist devices (VADs). Our transplant team will evaluate each patient who is referred to us with valvular heart disease to determine the most prudent course of action.
For more information about transplant selection criteria for patients with valvular heart disease and Tampa General Hospital’s Heart Transplant Program, please call 1-800-505-7769 (press 1 for the heart transplant program and ask for the referral coordinator), or call the coordinator directly at (813) 844-4088.