Heart Valve Disease


What Is Heart Valve Disease?

Heart valve disease happens when one or more of the four valves of the heart do not open and close the way they should with each heartbeat.

Aurora Health Care has more experience than anyone in the region in treating people with structural heart disease, including all types of valve disease. We offer minimally invasive procedures that treat heart valve disease very effectively, giving people the energy to return to their everyday activities.

The types of heart valve disease include:

  • Atresia: This is a serious birth defect in which there is no opening in the valve for blood to flow through.
  • Regurgitation: When the valve doesn’t close tightly, blood can leak backward instead of flowing forward.
  • Stenosis: When the valve gets thick, stiff or fuses with other tissue, it can’t open all the way. This keeps blood from properly flowing through it.


Symptoms of Heart Valve Disease

The most common symptom of heart valve disease is an unusual heartbeat or a heart murmur.

Other symptoms include:

  • Chest discomfort, especially when you’re active or out in cold weather
  • Dizziness
  • Rapid weight gain
  • Shortness of breath or having trouble breathing, especially during normal activities or lying down
  • Swelling in your ankles, feet, legs, abdomen and neck veins
  • Weakness or fatigue

Risk Factors

What Causes Heart Valve Disease?

Some people are born with heart valve disease. Others develop it as a result of other conditions that affect the size or flexibility of their heart valves.

Conditions that can cause heart valve disease include:

Find out more about specific types of heart valve disease:


Personalized Heart Valve Disease Diagnosis

Some people who have heart valve disease don’t know it until the disease has progressed and is becoming serious. At your annual check-up, you and your doctor can discuss your heart health, your symptoms and your family history. These discussions can help identify heart valve disease as early as possible.

To provide a diagnosis and develop a treatment plan, we may use tests and diagnostic procedures such as:

  • Physical exam: The doctor will listen to your heart with a stethoscope to check for a swishing sound that indicates a heart murmur. The doctor also will check for an irregular heartbeat, and ask about your symptoms and family history.
  • Chest X-ray: The doctor may order this imaging study to examine the shapes of your heart and lungs.
  • Diagnostic tests: Several tests can help us check the function of your heart and rule out other conditions. These may include:
  • Diagnostic procedures: If we need to examine the internal structures of your heart, we may order procedures such as cardiac catheterization.

Learn more about heart and vascular testing and diagnosis at Aurora.


Personalized Valve Disease Care

If you’re diagnosed with heart valve disease, we will work with you on a treatment plan tailored to your needs. It may include medication and lifestyle changes, like eating a healthy diet, quitting smoking and limiting intense exercise.

We might recommend a medical procedure to improve heart valve function, such as:

  • Balloon valvuloplasty: We thread a catheter with a small balloon on the end through a blood vessel from your groin to your aortic valve. The balloon inflates to stretch the heart valve.
  • Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR): We replace the damaged valve with an artificial valve, using a catheter. Read more about our highly successful transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) procedure.
  • Valve repair or replacement surgery: Surgeons repair or replace the damaged valves, through traditional open heart surgery or minimally invasive procedures. Aurora is a leader in heart valve repair and replacement.

Leaders in Minimally Invasive Treatment of Valvular Heart Disease

Cardiovascular Surgery

Aurora Health Care’s heart surgeons perform more heart surgeries than any other health care organization in Wisconsin. Our experience means you will benefit from our high level of surgical skill, the latest technological advances and a caring, personalized approach.

Valve Repair & Replacement

Our surgical teams are experts in minimally invasive heart valve repair and replacement procedures. These options make valve repair and replacement available to more patients, with faster recovery time and excellent results.

Open Heart Surgery

Some patients are candidates for open heart surgery to repair their damaged heart valves. We perform the greatest number of open heart procedures in Wisconsin, which means we have the best outcomes in the state.

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