Symptoms of Valve Disease
- Shortness of breath or difficulty catching a breath, first with exercise or exertion and later at rest
- Awaking at night short of breath
- Needing to sleep with extra pillows to breathe better
- Swelling of the hands, feet or ankles
- Weakness and/or dizziness
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Palpitations or irregular heartbeats
- Low or high blood pressure depending on the valve affected
If a patient's medical history and physical raises suspicion of valve disease, the physician may order a series of heart imaging tests that may include any or all of the following:
- Chest X-ray shows the lungs and heart outline.
- Stress test helps to determine if there is adequate blood flow to the heart during increasing levels of exercise as well as valve function.
- Nuclear scanning uses radioactive waves, ultrasound or magnetic fields to show abnormalities of blood flow and muscle function.
- Echocardiography uses ultrasound to create a moving picture of the heart as it contracts and blood flows through the valves and chambers.
- Cardiac catheterization helps determine if there is plaque buildup in the coronary arteries and measures pressures inside the heart to evaluate valve dysfunction.
- Cardiac CT Scan isa specialized CT scan synchronized to the heartbeat to define cardiac anatomy.
- Cardiac MRI is magnetic resonance scan showing the flow of blood through the heart as well as the anatomy and viability of the heart muscle.
Valve Disease Can Cause Serious Problems
For some patients, valve disease causes chest pain, palpitations, fatigue, shortness of breath and high or low blood pressure, depending on which valve is affected. Other patients have mild symptoms or none at all. In both cases, however, valve disease can cause irreversible damage to the heart muscle. Studies show that taking a “wait and see” approach before fully evaluating the problem can have adverse consequences. The Valve Center provides a comprehensive team approach that is essential for optimal care.
Research shows that early surgical intervention for valve disease can prevent irreversible damage to the heart.