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Heart valve disease - symptoms and treatment

What happens when your heart valves don't operate properly?

There are four major valves in the heart, and each has small tissue flaps that open and close with each heartbeat. The flaps ensure that your blood flows in the right direction. Heart valve disease occurs when a valve in your heart becomes calcified or otherwise blocked and blood flow is restricted.

Aortic stenosis is a specific condition in which the flaps of the aortic valve become narrowed and stiff and lose their ability to open and close fully. This means the heart has to work much harder to push blood through the aorta. This causes the heart to weaken eventually and increases the risk of heart failure.       

Symptoms of aortic stenosis may include:

  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lightheadedness
  • Fainting

It can, however, progress with no symptoms, therefore going undiagnosed. There is no drug treatment that is effective for valve disease. Until recently, the only treatment for severe aortic stenosis was open heart aortic valve replacement surgery.

In Kansas, people with valve disease now have the opportunity to be seen at Via Christi’s Heart Valve Clinic, located in the hospital on St. Francis. Some of these people may also be candidates for a minimally invasive transcatheter aortic valve replacement procedure in the hospital’s new hybrid operating room.