At Delray Medical Center, we are dedicated to providing patients access to some of the latest cardiac treatments through our Valve Clinic. Our board certified physicians are specially trained to perform innovative valve procedures designed to repair or replace the Aortic Valve.
The typical process for diagnosing a heart valve problem involves appointments with multiple specialists spread out over weeks or months. Our program is designed to streamline the process to a one day appointment. A visit to the Valve Clinic can include an evaluation by the Cardiologist and Cardiovascular Surgeon, review of prior diagnostic studies, and additional testing if deemed necessary that could include an echocardiogram and a CT scan. A patient navigator will work with the patient and make all necessary appointments for the visit to help ensure the patient receives personalized care.
Determining the most appropriate treatment is the focus of the valve clinic, and all decisions are made by a team. The patient is seen by both a Cardiologist and Cardiovascular Surgeon, and the physicians together decide the preferred approach taking into account individual characteristics of the patient. The Valve Clinic team works closely with the patient’s personal Cardiologist to ensure a smooth transition back to their care after the visit and treatment at the Valve Clinic.
Am I a candidate for valve repair?
Patients who need of heart valve repair or replacement generally suffer from advanced valve disease. Talk to a professional to learn more about valve disease and see if you might be a candidate for destination medical treatment accomplished in days.
What are the symptoms of heart valve disease?
Mild heart valve disease may not cause any symptoms. The following are the most common symptoms of heart valve disease. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may vary depending on the type of heart valve disease present and may include:
- Chest pain
- Palpitations caused by irregular heartbeats
- Migraine headaches
- Low or high blood pressure, depending on which valve disease is present
- Shortness of breath
- Abdominal pain due to an enlarged liver (if there is tricuspid valve malfunction)
Symptoms of heart valve disease may resemble other medical conditions and problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.
What causes heart valve damage?
The causes of heart valve damage vary depending on the type of disease present, and may include the following:
- A history of rheumatic fever (now a rare disease in north America due to effective antibiotic treatment) - a condition characterized by painful fever, inflammation, and swelling of the joints.
- Damage resulting from a heart attack
- Damage resulting from an infection
- Changes in the heart valve structure due to the aging process
- Congenital birth defect
- Syphilis (now a rare sexually transmitted disease in North American due to effective treatment) - a disease characterized by progressive symptoms if not treated. Symptoms may include small, painless sores that disappear, followed by a skin rash, enlarged lymph nodes, headache, aching bones, appetite loss, fever, and fatigue.
- Myxomatous degeneration - an inherited connective tissue disorder that weakens the heart valve tissue.
How is heart valve disease diagnosed?
A single day visit to the Delray Medical Center includes an evaluation by a cardiologist.
Heart valve disease may be suspected if the heart sounds heard through a stethoscope are abnormal. This is usually the first step in diagnosing a heart valve disease. A characteristic heart murmur (abnormal sounds in the heart due to turbulent blood flow across the valve) can often indicate valve regurgitation or stenosis.
A patient navigator will work with each patient and family to make all the necessary appointments to help ensure the patient receives personalized care. Treatment plans will be shared with the patient’s personal physician.
To further define the type of valve disease and extent of the valve damage, physicians may use any of the following diagnostic procedures:
Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)- a test that records the electrical activity of the heart, shows abnormal rhythms (arrhythmias or dysrhythmias), and detects heart muscle damage.
Echocardiogram (echo)- a noninvasive test that uses sound waves to produce a study of the motion of the heart's chambers and valves. The echo sound waves create an image on the monitor as an ultrasound transducer is passed over the heart.
Chest x-ray - a diagnostic test which uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film. An x-ray can show enlargement in any area of the heart.
Cardiac catheterization - this diagnostic procedure involves a tiny, hollow tube (catheter) being inserted into an artery leading to the heart in order to image the heart and blood vessels. This procedure is helpful in determining the type and extent of valve blockage.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)- a diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body.
Treatment for heart valve disease:
In some cases, the only treatment for heart valve disease may be careful medical supervision. However, other treatment options may include medication, surgery to repair the valve, or surgery to replace the valve. Specific treatment will be determined by your physician based on:
- Your age, overall health, and medical history
- Extent of the disease
- The location of the valve
- Your signs and symptoms
- Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
- Expectations for the course of the disease
- Your opinion or preference
Treatment varies, depending on the type of heart valve disease, and may include one, or a combination of, the following:
Medications are not a cure for heart valve disease but in many cases are successful in the treatment of symptoms caused by heart valve disease. These medications may include:
Medications such as beta-blockers, digoxin, and calcium channel blockers reduce symptoms of heart valve disease by controlling the heart rate and atrial fibrillation.
Medications to control blood pressure, such as diuretics (medications that remove excess water from the body by increasing urine output) or vasodilators (medications which relax the blood vessels, decreasing the force against which the heart must pump) ease the work of the heart.
Surgery may be necessary to repair or replace the malfunctioning valve(s). Surgery may include:
Heart valve repair: In some cases, surgery on the malfunctioning valve can help alleviate symptoms. Examples of heart valve repair surgery include cutting scarred flaps so they open more easily; remodeling valve tissue that has enlarged; or inserting prosthetic rings to help narrow a dilated valve. In many cases, heart valve repair is preferable, because a person's own tissues are used.
Heart valve replacement: When heart valves are severely malformed or destroyed, they may need to be replaced with a new mechanism. Replacement valve mechanisms fall into two categories: tissue (biologic) valves, which include animal valves and donated human aortic valves, and mechanical valves, which can be metal, plastic, or another artificial material.
Treating Mitral Valve Prolapse >
Minimally Invasive Valve Surgery
Using advanced technology available at Delray Medical Center, many procedures are performed through minimally invasive techniques. This treatment option is less invasive than valve repair/replacement surgery.
This minimally invasive technique is called a balloon valvuloplasty, which a special catheter (hollow tube) is threaded into a blood vessel in the groin and guided into the heart. The catheter, which contains a deflated balloon, is inserted into the narrowed heart valve and the inflated balloon is stretching the valve open. The balloon is then removed. This procedure is often used to treat pulmonary stenosis and, in some cases, aortic stenosis.
Minimally invasive surgeries are designed to result in less pain, less blood loss and a shorter recovery period; allowing patients to return to normal activities sooner. Advances in valve repair are especially beneficial for older patients who may not be able to tolerate the risks associated with traditional open-heart surgery.
Learn more about Minimally Invasive Heart Valve Surgery >
Why Delray Medical Center?
Commitment to Quality
At Delray Medical Center, we are committed to delivering the highest quality care possible to each of our patients. We strive to help patients achieve better outcomes, quicker recovery times, shorter hospital stays and ultimately, better health. As a result of our efforts, Delray Medical Center has received numerous prestigious awards and accolades from trusted organizations including Healthgrades, The Joint Commission and the American Heart Association. Click here to view our Quality Awards page >