Porter Regional Hospital Delves into Heart Valve Disease and Treatment Options

Medical technology has advanced in many ways, allowing us to live longer, fuller lives. We can do things at older ages that we couldn't do 20 years or even 10 years ago. But with every pro there is a con. As we age, our bodies change and the risk factors to develop diseases and health complications rise. Cardiovascular disease, specifically, is on the rise and with that the potential creation of heart valve problems.

Luckily, medical advancements are being made to help diagnose, treat, and prevent heart valve problems. At Porter Regional Hospital, there is even a new Heart Valve Center, which is set to open on November 20, 2014 at its main campus on Highway 6. The Center will have board certified and specifically trained medical personnel on hand at all times, cardiac clinicians that will play liaison between patients, their heart team, and referring physicians, streamlined access to Loyola University Medical Center, individualized treatment and care for every patient, ongoing patient followup, and so much more.

On November 11, Cardiologist Dr. Jay Shah and Cardio-Thoracic Surgeon Dr. Walid Khabbaz gave special presentations that were geared toward heart valve disease. 

The evening opened up with Dr. Shah. He spoke of heart valve disease itself; what heart valves are, what roles do they play in the heart, how heart valves become diseased, what the symptoms are, how we can learn more about heart valves, and what do do when a problem arises.

 The role of heart valves is to keep blood flowing in the right direction. What prevents this from happening are two problems that can occur: valves that are too leaky, and valves that are too stiff. Dr. Shah concentrated on the mitral valve and the aortic valve that evening, and he stated that the reasons why valves become diseased is because of wear and tear, infections and clots, and congenital problems. 

"Timely management, diagnosis, and treatment is key because that's where the prognosis changes for our patients," Dr. Shah said. 

When it's diagnosed in time, heart valve disease can be easily treated with medication or surgery, if necessary. In order to diagnose heart valve disease, a non-invasive echoardiogram (an ultrasound of the heart) is conducted, stress tests are given, a 3D echocardiogram is conducted, cardiac catheterization can be done, and cardiac magnetic resonance imaging can be used. Symptoms are taken into consideration beforehand. The symptoms of heart valve disease are: shortness of breath, chest pain, decreased endurance, swelling in legs and abdomen, difficulty laying flat, and coughing. These symptoms are subtle and can be mistaken for other diseases, which is why it's important to stay education and talk to your doctor,

"It's important to know how the heart functions, because when you know how it works than you can see the importance of of the valves and their functions." Dr. Shah said.

Dr. Khabbaz was up next. He spoke mostly on surgical management of heart valve disease. He explained that when a heart begins to form, it's in the shape of a tube. It begins to beat even before there's any blood in it, and as time goes by different parts begin to develop making the heart whole and functional. All heart valves, except for the mitral valve, have three leaflets that open and close to let blood in and out of the heart. When a valve does not close all the way, that indicates a leaky or regurgitating valve. Blood can get pushed in the wrong direction and cause complications. When it doesn't open all they way due to stiff or fused leaflets, this is called stiff or valvular stenosis. The heart has to work extra hard to pump blood, and this can lead to heart failure. 

Dr. Khabbaz then delved into the options available in heart valve repair. Annuloplasty bands or rings that are made of durable plastic, metal, or fabric can be used. Replacement valves are another options. There is a mechanical valve which is made from durable and long-lasting plastics and metals, a tissue valve that is human or animal donor tissue, surgeons can borrowing a healthy valve and move it into the position of the damaged valve, as well as other options. The type of valve replacement that a patient receives depends on the severity of symptoms, what valve needs to be replaced, and the patient history.

"There are many ways to do valve repair. We tend to use different replacements for different situations," Dr. Khabbaz said. "Technology is always changing so new developments are always being made."

If you would like to make an appointment at the Heart Valve Center, call 219-983-5249.