Heart valves allow blood to move forward (not backward). If the blood flows or leaks backwards, there is a problem with a valve. When the heart pumps blood, it’s pushing the blood forward so oxygen-filled blood can reach every inch of the body. The heart has four valves: Left-side valves (mitral valve and aortic valve) and right-side valves (tricuspid valve and pulmonic valve).
The mitral valve is the valve between the left atrium and left ventricle; the aortic valve is between the left ventricle and the body; the tricuspid valve is between the right atrium and right ventricle; the pulmonic valve is between the right ventricle and the arteries of the lungs.
Heart valves are notorious for having problems, including leakiness. A leaky valve is known as regurgitation. Leakiness is designated as trivial, mild, moderate, or severe. Both trivial and mild leaky valves are common and are of no real concern. Moderate leakiness usually does not cause a problem in a person but needs to be monitored throughout the year. Severe leakiness usually needs to be corrected by a surgery or procedure. Severe leakiness can lead to symptoms of heart failure as there may not be enough blood pushing forward, which can affect the heart negatively.
When the valves are tight, this is known as stenosis. Stenosis is designated as mild, moderate, or severe. For the most part, only severe stenosis is treated through surgery or a procedure. When the valves are too tight, the heart is working harder to pump blood; the heart becomes stressed, which can lead to heart enlargement and heart failure.
How does a person usually find out that a heart valve is malfunctioning? A doctor will usually hear a heart murmur through a stethoscope; a heart murmur is a good indicator for leakiness or tightness. Each valve will have different murmur patterns. Echocardiograms can also diagnose problems with heart valves.
Does heart valve disease run in your family? Get yourself checked! Preventative care will help keep you healthier longer. Don’t ignore the symptoms – seek treatment. If you currently suffer from heart disease and are looking for a surgeon, Dr. Peter Mikhail is a heart valve surgeon who specializes in mitral valve surgery and TAVR. To book a consult, click here or call 727-312-4844. He is based in New Port Richey, Florida, and treats patients in the Tampa and Clearwater areas.