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Your heart's job is to pump blood through your body. That job starts with pumping blood through the heart itself. Inside your heart, blood passes through a series of one-way gates called valves. If a valve works poorly, not enough blood moves forward. A problem heart valve may not open wide enough, not close tightly enough, or both. In any case, not enough blood gets sent out to the body.
Men and women of any age can have heart valve trouble. You may have been born with a problem valve. Or a valve may have worn out as you've aged. Some of the most common heart valve problems are:
It may not be possible to pinpoint what caused your valve problem. But common causes include:
You can have a problem valve for decades yet have no symptoms. If you do have symptoms, they may come on so slowly that you barely notice them. In other cases, though, symptoms appear suddenly. You might have one or more of the following:
Your doctor will begin with taking a thorough medical history. From there, you may need additional tests to help diagnose your valve problem and rule out any other disease you may have. Your doctor may:
Different problems call for different treatments. You may require heart valve surgery to repair your heart valve, or your doctor may prescribe medication to help ease your symptoms. Your doctor will talk with you in advance about the treatment that is best for you.
St. Joseph's Heart & Vascular Institute surgeons use the robot-assisted daVinci system for cardiac surgery to perform minimally invasive valve repairs. The benefits of the daVinci® Si HD Surgical System include:
In addition, St. Joseph's Heart & Vascular Institute offers Surgical aortic valve replacement (SAVR), the primary surgical treatment for aortic valve stenosis. During this procedure, the narrowed aortic valve is removed and is replaced with a mechanical valve or a tissue valve.