Waitematā DHB Cardiology Services
Public Service, Cardiology
Your heart consists of 4 chambers that receive and send blood to the lungs and body.
Disorders affecting valves can either cause "too much thickening (also referred to as stenosis or narrowing) or "too much redundance" (also referred to as regurgitation or leakage after the valve has closed).
Depending on what valve is involved and how severe the damage is, it may result in symptoms of heart failure (see above) as it makes the heart pump inefficiently. Some heart valve problems stay quiescent for years and may surface during pregnancy or worsen with age. They are particularly prone to infection with bacteria.
Suspicion of a heart valve problem is usually picked up by your doctor when they listen to your heart and hear a murmur. A murmur is heard with the stethoscope and is turbulence of blood flow that occurs through a narrowed or leaky valve. Not all heart murmurs mean serious problems but are best investigated further.
The echocardiogram is the main test to diagnose what valve is involved and how severe it is.
Treatment depends on the type and severity of the valve lesion. You may simply be monitored over years to see if anything changes. Some conditions require medication to thin the blood or treat any complicating heart problems. In many cases your cardiologist will recommend antibiotics be taken before dental procedures.
You may be referred to a heart surgeon for consideration of a valve replacement or dilatation of a narrowed valve.