Heart Valve Disease


Heart valve disease happens when one or more of the four valves that are supposed to open and close with each of your heartbeats doesn’t work right. There are a few main causes of this:

Atresia, when there is no opening in the valve for blood to flow through.

Regurgitation, when the valve doesn’t close tightly, which lets blood leak backward instead of flowing forward. 

Stenosis, when the valve gets thick, stiff or fuses with other tissue so it can’t open all the way, which keeps blood from flowing through it well. 

Some people are born with heart valve disease. Others develop it, usually because a health problem makes their heart valves stretch or distort. For example, heart attacks, atherosclerosis and high blood pressure can cause heart valve disease. So can autoimmune disorders, metabolic disorders and some cancers and cancer treatments.


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


To diagnose heart valve disease, your doctor will ask about your symptoms and perform a physical exam. He or she may order diagnostic tests such as:

Treatment Options

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

Your doctor may also recommend a medical procedure, such as: 

  • Balloon valvuloplasty, in which a catheter with a small balloon on the end is threaded through a blood vessel from your groin to your aortic valve. The balloon is inflated to stretch your heart valve.
  • Transcatheter aortic valve implantation or TAVI, where the damaged valve with an artificial valve one using a catheter.
  • Valve repair or replacement surgery, which can involve traditional open-heart surgery or minimally invasive procedures to repair or replace your damaged valves.

Why Aurora?

At our Valvular Heart Disease Center at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center, you’ll have a team of cardiologists, surgeons, social workers and other specialists working to meet your needs and ensure you of the best possible outcome. 

For more information on the Valvular Heart Disease Center, contact us at 414-385-2400 or toll-free 855-229-2400.

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