As your heart pumps, multiple valves open and close, helping blood move through it. If one of your valves doesn’t work correctly, it can make your heart work harder to pump. Over time, this can lead to heart damage.

photo of doctors and patient

If you have heart valve disease, we are here to help. At University of Missouri Health Care, we diagnose heart valve problems early, helping prevent further damage to your heart. We offer you comprehensive care and treat you with the latest advancements in heart care — from advanced cardiac imaging to the latest, minimally invasive treatment options.

Our multidisciplinary team of cardiologists, cardiothoracic surgeons, nursing staff and additional health care specialists provides you with personalized care throughout the entire treatment process. From diagnosis to cardiac rehabilitation, we work with you to create an individualized treatment plan that works for you and your needs.

Coordinated, convenient heart valve care

Each of our heart valve disease patients receives support from a nurse coordinator. Your nurse coordinator works with you and your primary care doctor or cardiologist to coordinate tests, answer questions and schedule appointments.

To help make your care more convenient, you can have many tests performed close to home at your doctor’s office or local hospital. Your nurse coordinator will communicate with your physician to get the test results and to ensure your physician is part of your care team.

Symptoms and risk factors for heart valve disease

You may feel no symptoms of heart valve disease. However, the leading symptom is a heart murmur, a strange whooshing sound your doctor can hear through a stethoscope. Not all heart murmurs are a sign of heart valve disease.

As you age, symptoms of heart valve disease may get worse. You may start to notice that you are:

  • Experiencing swelling in your feet, legs, abdomen or chest
  • Fatigued or easily tired
  • Having trouble breathing during exercise or when you lie down

In some cases, you may have been born with a congenital heart valve defect. While you may not have had symptoms when you were young, over time the valve may become more and more inefficient, causing symptoms.

Other conditions that can cause heart valve disease, include:

  • Atherosclerosis (plaque build-up in the arteries)
  • Heart failure
  • Heart infections
  • High blood pressure
  • Rheumatic fevers

You may be at risk for heart valve problems if you have any of these conditions. If you are at risk and show symptoms, your physician may order diagnostic tests to check for heart valve problems.

Diagnosis of heart valve disease

At MU Health Care, we offer advanced cardiac imaging, including imaging that uses no radiation.

To diagnose heart valve disease, our specialists may use:

  • Cardiac catheterization
  • Cardiac CT scans
  • Cardiac MRI (radiation-free)
  • Cardiac stress test
  • Echocardiogram (an ultrasound of the heart)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) stress test

Treatment of heart valve disease

As a patient in an academic health center, you have access to advanced treatments at MU Health Care. Because our physicians are active in cardiology research, you receive care guided by the latest medical evidence and often have access to new medicines or devices before they are widely available.

We offer comprehensive heart valve disease treatment options, including:

Medicines

Certain medicines can help the heart work more efficiently and slow damage to the heart. Your physician may prescribe blood pressure medicine, blood thinners, antiarrhythmics or other medicines that can help you achieve a healthier heart.

Heart valve repair or replacement

If you have more advanced heart valve disease, you may need surgery to repair or replace your heart valves. At MU Health Care, our doctors provide minimally invasive surgery for heart valve disease.

During these procedures, your physician makes one, small incision in the femoral artery (the artery in your groin). Using X-ray guidance, they thread a thin tube (catheter) through the artery and up into your heart. They then use specialized tools to repair heart valves or, in the case of transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), replace the heart valve altogether.

Some patients with advanced or complex heart valve problems may need open heart surgery to replace valves. At MU Health Care, our expert cardiothoracic surgeons are experienced at performing these surgeries.