Heart Valve Disease: Types, Meds, and Surgical Repair
HomeHome > Blog > Heart Valve Disease: Types, Meds, and Surgical Repair

Heart Valve Disease: Types, Meds, and Surgical Repair

Aug 22, 2023

Heart valves help your blood flow in the heart and to your body. Heart valve disease—or valvular heart disease—can occur due to age, certain heart conditions, or issues present from birth. Not everyone with heart valve disease has symptoms, but those with symptoms should see a healthcare provider to determine the underlying cause and seek treatment.

This article discusses surgical and nonsurgical heart valve disease treatment. It also covers types of heart valve disease, related symptoms, risks of leaving it untreated, and treatment options.

FatCamera / Getty Images

The heart has four chambers: the left and right atria and the left and right ventricles. The heart also has four valves with flaps that ensure blood moves as it should in the heart and around your body. Each of the valves has a specific responsibility, as follows:

If the valves don't open or close as they should, it is harder for the heart to work correctly.

If you are diagnosed with heart valve disease, it will be categorized as one of the following types:

Heart valve disease and heart failure are not the same thing. Heart valve disease refers to a problem with one of the heart valves. Heart failure is when the heart does not pump blood through the body as it usually would. Though, sometimes, heart valve disease can cause heart failure.

Not all heart valve problems require immediate treatment. In some cases, a healthcare provider may monitor the progression of the heart valve condition before moving toward treatment.

Other times, treatment is immediately necessary and can help avoid more serious, sometimes fatal complications, including:

It's possible to have a heart valve problem throughout your life and not know it as it has no symptoms. In most cases, heart valve disease progresses slowly, eventually leading to symptoms.

You may feel more tired than usual with heart valve disease or wonder why you're out of breath with physical activity when it didn't cause any problems before. Symptoms of heart valve disease include the following:

Medication can sometimes help control symptoms associated with heart valve disease, though it may not cure it. Depending on the cause of your heart valve disease, a provider may prescribe you blood pressure medication such as diuretics or vasodilators to support your heart's function.

You may need surgery when one or more of your heart valves is not functioning properly and is negatively impacting your health. To decide if heart valve disease surgery is the best option for you, your healthcare provider will consider:

Before surgery, you may have to have other tests to give your provider more information about your valve disease. Make sure to ask in advance about any alternatives to having surgery so that you know all of your options.

Ask in advance about any costs associated with the surgery and financial support available within your health system.

If your heart valve issue requires surgery, your provider will determine if you need a repair or a replacement, which involves the following:

One of the latest forms of heart valve replacement called transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), does not involve traditional surgical incision. Procedures using catheters inserted into the veins or arteries are now available to replace the aortic valve with severe aortic stenosis and to repair the mitral valve with severe mitral regurgitation.

The type of surgery used will depend on the exact heart valve problem; each comes with risks.

Some people undergo open heart surgery involving a larger chest incision to access the heart. During the surgery, you are connected to a heart-lung bypass machine that will do the work of your heart during the procedure.

Other heart valve surgeries are less invasive, involving more minor cuts to complete the surgery. There is less pain and a quicker recovery associated with minimally invasive surgeries.

If you have heart valve surgery, it could take between four and eight weeks to recover. Follow any instructions your healthcare provider or surgeon gives you.

Your provider will likely ask you to participate in cardiac rehabilitation to restore your cardiovascular function. Make sure to attend these sessions. Ask for support from friends or family members to complete tasks you may not be able to do, including taking care of children and pets or doing household chores.

If your provider does not recommend surgery for you but wants to monitor the progress of your heart valve disease, keep any scheduled appointments.

Heart valve disease can occur with age, from a heart condition, or due to genetics. The most common types of heart valve disease are regurgitation, stenosis, and atresia. Medications for heart valve disease can help control the symptoms but won't cure the disease.

A heart surgeon may perform a heart valve repair or replacement for more severe cases. Untreated heart valve disease may lead to severe problems because the heart has to work harder. These include atrial fibrillation, heart failure, and sudden cardiac arrest or death.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Valvular heart disease.

Johns Hopkins Medicine. Heart valve diseases.

MedlinePlus. Heart valve disease.

Penn Medicine. What is a leaky heart valve?

American Heart Association. Recognizing the symptoms of worsening heart valve disease.

Johns Hopkins Medicine. Heart valve repair or replacement surgery.

Johns Hopkins Medicine. Questions to ask before surgery.

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR).

American Heart Association. Heart valve surgery recovery and follow up.

By Vanessa CaceresVanessa Caceres is a nationally published health journalist with over 15 years of experience covering medical topics including eye health, cardiology, and more.

Aortic valveMitral valvePulmonary valveTricuspid valveRegurgitationStenosisAtresiaAtrial fibrillationHeart failurePulmonary hypertension: Stroke: Sudden cardiac arrest (heart attack)Heart valve replacementHeart valve repair