Heart valve diseases

Function of heart:

Heart is a muscular organ located in the chest between the lungs. The heart is a pump, providing blood to the various organs in your body. The right side of the heart pumps blood to the lungs, there the blood receives oxygen while carbon dioxide is removed. The left side of the heart receives this oxygenated blood from the lungs and pumps it to the entire body.


Parts of human heart:


The heart has four chambers. The two upper chambers are called the atria. They receive the blood returning from the body via veins. The two atria contract and send blood into the lower two chambers called ventricles. The ventricles are stronger and bigger than atria, and contract with greater power, delivering blood to the entire body .


The heart has four valves. They act like doors, and their purpose is to make sure that blood keeps moving forward. The heart’s valves open to allow forward flow of blood, then close to prevent backward flow of the blood. The mitral and tricuspid valves maintain the flow of blood from the atria to the ventricles. The aortic and pulmonic valves maintain the flow of blood out of the ventricles. 


Human heart valves are remarkable structures. They open and close with each heart beat throughout a person's life. The characteristic heart sounds i.e. “lubb-dubb” are produced by the closing of the heart valves, the first by the closure of the mitral and tricuspid valves and the second by the closure of the aortic and pulmonic valves, respectively.


Valvular stenosis and regurgitation:

When a heart valve opens completely, blood flows through the valve in a smooth manner. 

If a valve is damaged, and is unable to open when it is supposed to, it results in the blockage of blood flow, and is referred to as valvular STENOSIS.


When a heart valve closes, it prevents the backward flow of blood. If a damaged valve is unable to close when it is supposed to, it is called REGURGITATION and results in leakage of blood.

Endocarditis (a cause of valvular disease)

Causes of heart valve disease


1- Degenerative valve disease

2- Calcification due to aging: Calcification of valves occurs with age, with calcium being deposited on the heart valve leaflets. 

3- Coronary artery disease: Damage to the heart muscle as a result of a heart attack can affect the function of the heart valves. 

4- Rheumatic fever: Once a common cause of heart valve disease, rheumatic fever is now relatively rare in most developed countries. Rheumatic fever is caused by an infection of the Group A Streptococcus bacteria.

5- Congenital abnormalities: Congenital heart defects (present at birth) can affect the flow of blood through the cardiovascular system. 

6- Bacterial endocarditis: Bacterial endocarditis is a bacterial infection of the valves of the heart, resulting in damage to the leaflets of the valves.


Diagnosis

Some physical signs of heart valve disease include chest pain, tiredness, shortness of breath, lightheadedness and loss of consciousness. 

Heart valve issues can often be identified by the use of a stethoscope on routine physical examination as they often produce an abnormal heart sound called a murmur. A heart murmur, particularly if it is new or loud, should be further investigated by a doctor.

Echocardiography Procedure

Tests:

Echocardiography: It is an ultrasound of the heart, and is the most important test used to diagnose valvular abnormalities.

Catheterization: It is a test in which a tube is inserted into the blood vessels and heart to visualize any blockages of the blood vessels supplying the heart.

Chest X-ray: Can be helpful to look for calcium deposits in the heart valves, or fluid accumulation in the lungs which can occur with these valvular problems.


Treatment:

Different treatments include:

1) Medications

2) Surgical valve repair

3) Surgical valve replacement

4) Transcatheter valve replacement