With millions of Americans diagnosed each year, heart valve disease is
becoming increasingly prevalent. The heart has four valves (the mitral,
tricuspid, aortic and pulmonic valves) that play a critical role in maintaining
proper blood flow through the heart as it works to pump oxygen-rich blood
through to the body. Heart valve disease occurs when one or more of the
valves stop working properly.
“Each of the four heart valves has the important function of helping
maintain forward blood flow while preventing backflow. Heart valve disease
can result in stenosis, which impedes forward blood flow and/or regurgitation,
resulting in blood flowing backwards in the heart,” explained
Thomas C. Kim, MD, FACC, board-certified cardiologist at
St. Joseph Hospital.
Common symptoms of heart valve disease include persistent fatigue, shortness
of breath and swelling in one or both legs, however, many patients do
not experience any warning signs. If left untreated, heart valve disease
can lead to serious problems such as heart failure, stroke, blood clots
or sudden death due to cardiac arrest.
“While each valve is susceptible to experiencing problems, the aortic
valve is most commonly affected,” said
Maged Azer, MD, FACC, board-certified cardiologist at St. Joseph Hospital. “In fact,
aortic stenosis is the most common type of heart valve disease.
”Stenosis occurs when a heart valve is unable to open fully, resulting
in obstructed blood flow. Stenosis can be caused by a number of factors,
including age, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. If
stenosis becomes severe and symptoms develop, surgery may be required.
“It’s important to consult with a doctor if you are experiencing
any symptoms or are at risk of developing heart valve disease. An echocardiogram
is a preliminary test that can be done to assess and diagnose issues concerning
the heart valves,” Dr. Azer said.
The team of cardiac experts at the Valve Clinic at St. Joseph Hospital
use an innovative, multidisciplinary approach to evaluate heart valve
disease. The clinic offers access to advanced diagnostic procedures, including
echocardiography, Doppler ultrasound, transesophageal echocardiography,
CT imaging and cardiac catheterization.
“The Valve Clinic is unique because it offers a comprehensive spectrum
of services to patients to guide them throughout their continuum of care.
A cardiologist reviews the test results with the patient before they leave
the clinic, and a nurse practitioner creates and reviews a general treatment
plan with the patient,” Dr. Kim said. “The clinic is essentially
a one-stop-shop to diagnose and provide a treatment plan for patients
with heart valve disease.
Learn more about
Dr. Kim and
Dr. Azer. For more information or to make an appointment at the Valve Clinic, please
call (714) 744-8716 or visit sjo.org/heart.