You may have recently been told by your cardiologist that you have a heart murmur, which is a signal that one of your valves may be damaged. Or you may have shortness of breath, which could signal a heart condition requiring treatment. Either of these are excellent reasons to have a cardiac ultrasound, with an experienced cardiologist, who has the expertise to diagnose a leaky or stenotic (blocked) valve.
The heart has four chambers and four heart valves, including the aortic and mitral valves, on the left, and the tricuspid and pulmonary valves on the right. Leaking, or blocked heart valves may cause the following symptoms:
Learn more about why heart valves leak.
Treatment usually involves the following:
Your cardiologist may refer you to a cardiac surgeon to repair or replace your heart valve. The cardiac surgeon may recommend one of the following surgeries, depending on your pathology and what is causing the problem:
1. Heart valve repair—this is preferable if possible, as your own tissue is better than replacing a heart valve. If your heart valve is leaking, your cardiac surgeon may be able to repair it. This is particularly true of mitral regurgitation (leakage) due to mitral valve prolapse. Mitral valve prolapse is the most common heart abnormality affecting five to ten percent of the population. It is a condition where the leaflets of the heart valve don’t close completely. This may cause leakage of blood through the valve opening.
2. Heart valve replacement—this can be done using a variety of valves, including mechanical and biological tissue valves (those from pig or cow tissue). Mechanical valves require the use of blood thinners, but have good long term durability. Biological valves do not require long term blood thinner use. You should discuss the best options for you with your cardiologist and cardiac surgeon.
Learn more about heart valve disease.
When picking any surgeon, it is important to talk about experience and outcomes. How many of these surgeries has your surgeon performed? What are his or her outcomes? What kind of care will you receive following surgery? Is the hospital equipped to manage patients following cardiac surgery?
More than 70 hospitals in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area send us their difficult-to-treat cardiac cases, including heart valve repair patients. Even the most difficult and challenging surgical repairs can be routine, as we frequently manage and care for these types of patients. The Society of Thoracic Surgeons has recently developed a comprehensive rating system that allows for comparisons regarding the quality of cardiac surgery among hospitals across the country. Approximately 15 percent of hospitals receive the “3-star” rating, which denotes the highest category of quality. In the current analysis of national data, the cardiac surgery performance our hospital was found to lie in the highest quality tier, thereby receiving an STS 3-star rating.
And MedStar Heart Institute is consistently ranked as one of the nation’s leaders in cardiology and cardiac surgery by U.S.News & World Report. These rankings help guide patients like yourself about the best centers for care across the nation.
MedStar Washington Hospital Center has the largest number of cardiac surgeons in the area who perform the area’s largest percentage of repaired (not replaced) valves. Further, we are one of only a few Centers worldwide in a clinical trial that utilizes percutaneous aortic valve replacement to treat aortic stenosis. This involves patients identified as meeting specific criteria, who then have a new type of valve implanted less invasively. This option is only open to patients who are a part of our clinical trial examining percutaneous aortic valve replacements, and are referred by their doctor. This trial is an exciting possibility for the future of heart valve surgery.
Meet our cardiac surgeons. MedStar Washington Hospital Center has some of the best “hands” in the business and the largest number of surgeons to choose from. Meet them by clicking here.
Our patients tell us again and again how happy they are they came to the Hospital Center. Having heart valve surgery is a scary and anxious experience. Our patients have superior outcomes, not just in returning to their daily lives and activities, but also in the care and compassion they received at the Hospital Center. We invite you to meet them and hear their stories.
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Many patients want to get a second opinion about their heart condition. The cardiologists and cardiac surgeons at MedStar Washington Hospital Center welcome the opportunity to provide a second opinion. Please contact us at http://www.whcenter.org/body.cfm?id=1374 or call 202-877-DOCS to get this set up.
MedStar Washington Hospital Center is the only place to go for heart surgery. Schedule an appointment or second opinion with one of our top surgeons or call 202-877-DOCS. Or order a free information kit about our cardiac surgery program.