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Understanding the role your heart’s valves play

Touro Heart Care is renowned for our outstanding valvular disease treatments, and we draw patients from all around the New Orleans area. The valve that runs through all the chambers of the heart prevents the backflow of blood, while also allowing blood to enter a chamber when it should. Unfortunately, valvular diseases are common and can ultimately cause serious problems for those who suffer from them. If you’re worried about your heart valve health, our extraordinary specialists and staff can help with diagnosis and treatment. Give us a call.

Virtual tour of our cardiac catherization lab

Click and drag your mouse to see our cardiac catherization lab.

The heart has 4 chambers:
2 upper chambers (atria) and 2 lower chambers (ventricles).
The heart also has 4 valves.
Tricuspid valve

Located between the right atrium and the right ventricle.

Tricuspid valve diagram

Pulmonary valve

Located between the right ventricle and the pulmonary artery.

Pulmonary valve diagram

Mitral & Aortic valve

Mitral: Located between the left atrium and the left ventricle.
Aortic: Located between the left ventricle and the aorta.

mitral and aortic diagram

Valvular stenosis (narrowing)

The stiffening of heart valves can narrow the size of the valve opening and restrict blood flow. The narrowing is called valve stenosis. It keeps the valve from opening fully and reduces the amount of blood that can flow through. In severe cases, the valve opening can become so narrow that the rest of the body may not receive adequate blood flow.

Valvular regurgitation (leaking)

Valvular Regurgitation can happen when the valve doesn’t close properly and allows blood to flow backwards. This disruption of the one-way blood flow in the heart puts a strain on your heart, reduces its pumping efficiency, and limits its ability to supply your body with oxygen-rich blood.

Congenital valve disease

Congenital valve disease happens when a heart’s valves don’t develop before birth. Sometimes the defect keeps the valve from closing completely, which means blood can flow back into the heart. For example, a hole is left where a dividing wall should have formed, or a single blood vessel is left, where 2 should have been.

How is valvular disease diagnosed?

The first step in the diagnosis of valvular heart disease often begins with a stethoscope. Suppose our doctor hears anything out of the ordinary, such as a heart murmur. In that case, they will order additional tests to arrive at a firm diagnosis. We often use the following diagnostic tools to determine whether patients have a valvular disease:

Electrocardiogram (ECG)

This test records the electrical activity in your heart and can reveal abnormal rhythms. We can also use it to detect heart muscle damage.

Echocardiogram (Echo)

An echo uses sound waves to evaluate the heart’s chambers and valves. We use a probe to create an image on a screen that provides more information.

Transesophageal Echocardiogram (TEE)

We pass a small ultrasound probe down into the esophagus during this procedure. The sound waves produced by the probe create a clear picture of what is going on.

Chest X-Ray

In addition to showing imagery of internal tissues, bones, and organs on film, chest x-rays can show enlargement in any area of the heart.

Cardiac Catheterization

During cardiac catheterization, we insert a catheter into the large artery in your leg or arm. Then the catheter monitors heart pressures. A contrast dye allows us to see images.

MRIs

MRIs use a combination of magnets, radio waves, and a computer to create accurate images of any organ or structure in the body, making it perfect for diagnosing valvular disease.

CT Scan

Like an MRI, a CT scan uses x-rays and a computer to make images of the organs and structures within your body. Contrast dye is often useful in enhancing the photos.

How is valvular disease treated?

Whether you require treatment or not depends on the nature of your condition. We might prefer to monitor your problem for an extended period. The treatments vary but often include medications that ease the symptoms of valvular disease. Beta-blockers, digoxin, and calcium channel blockers are all effective. If medication alone does not work, there are other avenues to explore. They include surgical procedures like valve repair or replacement. Additionally, we can use minimally-invasive treatments like transcatheter procedures. Balloon valvuloplasty and transcatheter aortic valve replacement are also good options.

We provide complete heart and vascular care

Our extraordinary physicians and staff at Touro Heart Care are proud of their ability to deliver personalized, patient-centered care to each of our patients. Every patient receives thorough diagnostic testing, which helps to inform the tailored treatment plan devised specifically for them. Then, we offer a range of heart rehabilitation programs to help you regain strength and get back to enjoying your life.

Get in touch! We’re ready to help you reclaim your heart health.