What is Structural Heart Disease?

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Structural heart disease describes any abnormality within the chambers and/or valves of the heart. For World Heart Day on September 29th, we’re exploring the issue of structural heart disease. Read on to learn more about this type of heart disease as well as how it can be treated and managed.

The Basics

Any time an abnormality or defect weakens the heart’s structure – its walls, valves and muscles – it’s referred to as structural heart disease. While these conditions are often congenital, or present at birth, some people develop the disease later in life because of wear and tear on the heart, infections, aging, or other underlying conditions.

This is different from coronary artery disease, which concerns the heart’s “plumbing,” or problems with the blood vessels that feed the heart, such as narrowed or blocked arteries that can lead to heart attack. It’s also different from an arrhythmia, like AFib, which is essentially a problem with the heart’s electrical system.

Structural heart problems are most often present at birth (congenital), but they can also develop with aging or as a result of other diseases.

Types of Structural Heart Disease

There are different types of structural heart diseases:

  • Aortic stenosis: The narrowing of the aortic valve opening. This condition restricts blood flow from the left ventricle to the aorta.
  • Aortic Regurgitation: The aortic valve is leaky, allowing blood back into the heart
  • Mitral Stenosis: The narrowing of the mitral valve obstructing blood flow from entering the pumping chamber of the heart.
  • Mitral regurgitation: In mitral regurgitation, the mitral valve leaks and allows blood to flow backwards into the lungs.
  • Pulmonary Valve Disease: A narrowed or leaky pulmonary valve.
  • Tricuspid Valve Disease: A narrowed or leaky tricuspid valve.
  • Defective Bioprosthetic Heart Valves: Patients with previous surgical bioprosthetic heart valves that have become damaged.
  • Atrial Septal Defect: A congenital defect where a hole has formed in the tissue separating the upper chambers of the heart. Associated with patients having strokes.
  • Patent Foramen Ovale: A congenital defect where a hole has formed in the tissue separating the upper chambers of the heart. Associated with patients having strokes.
  • Ventricular Septal Defect: A opening in the tissue separating the lower chambers of the heart.
  • Paravalvular Leaks: In patients with surgical valve replacement, the surgically implanted valve allows blood to leak around the valve.
  • Hypertrophic Obstructive Cardiomyopathy: A condition where the heart muscle becomes abnormally thick such that it makes it harder for the heart to pump blood.
  • Atrial Fibrillation: Structural intervention options are available for patients with an irregular heart rhythm who are not able to tolerate blood thinning medications.

Treatment Options

Some structural problems may never require treatment, although they will need to be monitored throughout a patient’s life. Some patients may benefit from medication. For example, a doctor may prescribe warfarin, a common blood thinning medication, if blood clots pose a particular risk for a patient.

However, in a growing number of cases, cardiologists treat structural heart defects through a structural heart intervention – a minimally invasive alternative to surgery. The doctor numbs the area where the catheter will be inserted, usually in the groin, and provides sedation to help the patient relax. Through the catheter, the doctor is able to either repair or replace the defective valve.

Contact Pulse: The Heart, Valve and Vascular Institute

If you have concerns about your heart or vascular health, contact Pulse: The Heart, Valve, and Vascular Institute. Dr. Farhan Majeed specializes in diagnosing and treating common cardiovascular conditions and offers valuable insight into how you can lower your risk of developing them. To schedule an appointment, call (941) 629-2111.

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