About the symptoms of heart valve disease

Expert advice on heart valve diseases: an interview with leading Swiss cardiologist Prof. Dr. Thomas F. Lüscher of DoubleCheck clinic and University Hospital Zürich.
Prof. Dr. Thomas F. Lüscher is an eminent cardiologist and one of the most highly regarded experts on heart disease in Switzerland. He talks to us about the symptoms for heart valve diseases and the treatment options that are available to patients in this area of heart medicine. 

What are the most common cardiac valve disorders?

Mainly, aortic valves disorders are common. Aortic valve stenosis occurs predominantly in people older than 75 to 80 years. This is easy to understand, since the valve has opened and closed by this time up to 2 to 3 billion times, and has therefore been exposed to strong forces.

Due to the transformations caused by these forces, the valve might not be able to open and close properly anymore.

Mitral valve diseases are also common cardiac valve disorders. Patients with mitral valve disease are also mainly old people. However, young women especially can have a mild mitral valve insufficiency without symptoms.

Usually, it stays insignificant. In exceptional cases, patients develop a severe mitral insufficiency with symptoms like dsypnea.

What are the symptoms of valvular disorders?

With aortic valve disease dyspnea is particularly prone to appear. However, other symptoms can include loss of consciousness (syncope) following short, intensive physical stress, e.g. running to catch the bus, as well as stenocardia (angina pectoris).

Eventually, an aortic valve stenosis could lead to a sudden cardiac death. In mitral valve diseases, dyspnea or shortness of breath, is the leading symptom.

What advice do you have on the latest and most successful treatment options for valve diseases?

A revolution has taken place in the treatment of heart valve diseases. Surgery used to be the sole therapy option. Nowadays, we can treat these by intracardiac katheter as an important alternative to invasive surgery.

In cases of aortic valve stenosis, young patients are usually recommended a surgical option. In older patients who are unlikely to be able to endure strenuous surgery, we can make us of a cardiac katheter.

This is inserted through the femoral artery and launched close to the aortic valve. Placing an aortic valve stent, the disorder of the aortic valve can be eliminated.

This intervention is much less strenous for the patient and achieves very good results. In the future, I think this method will be used even more.

In cases of mitral valve disease, it is usually necessary for the heart surgeon to reconstruct the valve in the opened chest. Another option is the so-called mitral valve clip, which is again inserted without surgery by katheter in order to decrease the leakage of the mitral valve.

With mitral valve insufficiency, patients may be recommended a course of drugs first. A prescription of diuretics and substances that lower blood pressure might be necessary at the beginning.

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