It is possible to notice a leaky heart valve or fails to show up until it reaches the final stage. The severity of the leaky valve depends on how much interference it is causing with the blood flow through the heart.
What is a Leaky Heart Valve?
The heart has four valves – tricuspid valve, aortic valve, mitral valve, and pulmonary valve. All the valves consist of flaps that open and close to let in and out blood in one direction. The functionality ensures that there is no backflow of the blood into heart chambers. Only the mitral valve possesses two flaps. The others have three. Any of the valves can become leaky due to heart valve diseases.
Symptoms of Leaky Heart Valve
Leaky heart valve shows no signs of symptoms. It is typical for the occurrence of a leaky heart valve among healthy people. However, when the leakage increases or the condition is severe, there is an impairment of the forward movement of the blood. In such situations, one suffers from:
- Shortness of breath
- Fluid retention in the lungs and other parts of the body
- Swelling of abdomen, feet, and ankles
- Increased palpitations
- Increased heartbeat
- Loss of consciousness.
Causes of Leaky Heart Valve
The reason for a leaky heart valve depends on which valve is experiencing the damage. For instance, an individual can suffer from leaky aortic valve due to increase in blood pressure, Marfan syndrome or rheumatic disease. In addition to it, the person can also experience the damage because of the presence of only two flaps as opposed to that of three.
Mitral valve prolapse, a condition where the valve fails to close correctly, results in a leaky mitral valve. Endocarditis or rheumatic heart disease also causes leaky mitral valve. Leakage in a tricuspid valve is normal. However, when the blood pressure in the pulmonary artery increases, the leakage in tricuspid becomes severe. Pulmonary valve leakage occurs due to increased blood pressure in the artery or due to previous surgery to correct a defect.
Treatments and Surgery for a Leaky Heart Valve
A leaky heart valve is a serious condition as it affects the overall blood flow in the body. Depending on the patient’s health and the risk involved, one may or may not receive the required treatment. Treatment includes the use of medicine or surgery.
Traditional Heart Valve Surgery: The operation consists of incision of the sternum to gain access to the heart. The surgeon then repairs or replaces the dysfunctional valve.
Minimally Invasive Surgery: The incision carried out is small, reduces blood loss, post-operation risks, and recovery period. The surgeon performs required diagnostic tests to consider for minimally invasive surgery.
Depending on the diagnostic tests and the symptoms experienced by the patient, the surgeon decides to repair the valve or replace it using a mechanical valve or biological valve. The following are the types of repairs performed by a surgeon:
- Reshaping the leaflets
- Chordal transfer
- Annulus support
- Patching leaflets.
Repairing a leaky heart valve helps in decreasing the use of anticoagulant medication and preserves the strength of the heart muscle. However, if the patient is suffering from pulmonary or aortic heart valve disease, replacing the valve is the only option. It is here that the doctor decides on deciding between the mechanical valve or the animal/human tissue valve. A mechanical valve functions unconditionally, but the patient requires the use of anticoagulant medication for the rest of the life. A biological valve has a maximum lifespan of 15 years in the patient does not require the use of anticoagulant drugs.
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