Valvular heart diseases

Last updated: March 25, 2022

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Valvular heart diseases can take the form of stenosis, insufficiency (regurgitation), or a combination of the two. These defects are typically acquired as the result of infections, underlying heart disease, or degenerative processes. However, certain congenital conditions can also cause valvular heart diseases. Acquired defects are found primarily in the left heart as a result of higher pressure and mechanical strain on the left ventricle. The type of valvular disease determines the type of cardiac stress and subsequent symptoms. Valvular stenosis leads to a greater pressure load and concentric hypertrophy, while insufficiencies are characterized by volume overload and eccentric hypertrophy of the preceding heart cavities. Diagnostic procedures typically include ECGs, chest x-ray, and echocardiograms. Management consists of interventional or surgical procedures to reconstruct or replace valves, as well as medical treatment of possible heart failure.

Epidemiological data refers to the US, unless otherwise specified.

Valvular heart defects may either be acquired or congenital. Acquired defects are more common and typically occur secondary to infections (postinflammatory), degenerative processes, or heart disease.

All valvular defects can eventually lead to symptoms of heart failure as a result of excessive strain on the ventricles.

Physical examination

Auscultation in valvular defects
Maximum point Murmur Characteristics
Aortic stenosis
Aortic regurgitation
Mitral stenosis
  • Heart apex (midclavicular 5th left ICS)
Mitral valve prolapse
  • Heart apex (midclavicular 5th left ICS)
  • Midsystolic high-frequency click (due to the tensing of the chordae tendinae)
  • Loudest before S2
Mitral regurgitation
  • Blowing
  • Radiation into the axilla

Pulmonary stenosis

Pulmonary regurgitation
Tricuspid stenosis (extremely rare)
Tricuspid regurgitation
  • Augmentation of the murmur's intensity with inspiration (Carvallo sign)


Symptomatic treatment

Causal treatment

Surgical options

The choice of procedure is based on the patient's individual risk profile and an evaluation of the risks and benefits. Options include:

  • Valve reconstruction (annuloplasty)
    • Procedure: a ring-shaped device is attached to the outside of the valve opening to reestablish the shape and function of the valve
    • Reduced thromboembolic risk compared to a mechanical prosthetic valve but high risk of recurring stenosis
    • Lower mortality rate than valve replacements; however, replacements are more durable
  • Prosthetic heart valve replacement
Overview of prosthetic heart valve replacement options
Mechanical prosthetic valve Biological prosthetic valve
  • Older patients (≥ 65 years of age)
  • Patients with a high risk of bleeding
  • Women with a desire to have children
  • Valve has a long lifespan
  • Anticoagulation is only necessary for 3 months after surgery.
Complications [6]

Interventional procedures

  • Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR)
    • A minimally invasive, percutaneous procedure in which the aortic valve is replaced through an endovascular technique
    • A collapsible replacement valve is inserted via a catheter and placed over the native valve
    • Once the replacement valve is expanded, it pushes the old valve aside and assumes its function.
  • Transcatheter mitral valve replacement (TMVR)
  • Percutaneous balloon valvuloplasty
    • Used to treat cardiac valvular stenosis
    • A balloon is advanced into the target valve (either percutaneously or transapically) and inflated, opening the stenotic valve


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  5. Nishimura RA, Otto CM, Bonow RO, et al. 2017 AHA/ACC Focused Update of the 2014 AHA/ACC Guideline for the Management of Patients With Valvular Heart Disease. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2017; 70 (2): p.252-289. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2017.03.011 . | Open in Read by QxMD
  6. Vesey JM, Otto CM. Complications of prosthetic heart valves. Curr Cardiol Rep. 2004; 6 (2): p.106-111. doi: 10.1007/s11886-004-0007-x . | Open in Read by QxMD
  7. Acker MA, Parides MK, Perrault LP, et al. Mitral-valve repair versus replacement for severe ischemic mitral regurgitation. N Engl J Med. 2014; 370 (1): p.23-32. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1312808 . | Open in Read by QxMD

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