Structural Heart Disease | Norton Healthcare Louisville, Ky.

Structural Heart Program

Structural heart disease occurs from aging, injury or infection and most often affects the heart valves.

As the heart beats, a precisely timed series of opening and closing of valves keeps blood flowing in the right direction. All four valves — aortic, mitral, tricuspid and pulmonic — need to open wide, then shut tight in rhythm.

Heart valves may not close all the way (regurgitation) or open sufficiently (stenosis). These conditions can develop over time and often don’t need treatment. Sometimes blood thinners can help. If left untreated, however, structural heart disease can lead to serious complications.

Structural Heart Disease Care at Norton Heart & Vascular Institute

The Norton Heart & Vascular Institute Structural Heart Program brings together the talents of cardiothoracic surgeons, interventional cardiologists and imaging cardiologists to one location at Norton Audubon Hospital. Patients can schedule multiple appointments for one visit and benefit from the collaboration of multiple specialists with their unique viewpoints and experiences.

Patients are fast-tracked for evaluation, diagnosis and treatment, and those who need surgery or minimally invasive procedures are scheduled within four weeks.

Follow-ups are with the same team at Norton Audubon Hospital.

Patients work with a nurse  navigator dedicated to the Structural Heart Program to help guide them through their care, with assistance ranging from understanding their condition and care to  navigating insurance, planning aftercare and any home-care needs.

What Is Structural Heart Disease?

Structural heart disease typically strikes the heart valves, either limiting their ability to allow forward blood flow or not closing tightly and allowing backward blood flow.

In the case of mitral regurgitation, heart valves become leaky. The mitral valve is particularly prone to this condition as it regulates the blood flow into the heart’s powerful left ventricle — the last stop before blood is pumped out to the entire body.

If the mitral valve doesn’t close all the way, the pumping action of the left ventricle can send some blood squirting backward. If left untreated, mitral regurgitation can lead to heart failure and arrhythmia.

Another form of structural heart disease is valve stenosis. This describes a valve that has become narrowed or stiff and isn’t allowing enough blood to flow out of the heart to the rest of the body. The result is typically shortness of breath and chest discomfort.

Unlike other forms of heart disease, structural heart disease typically is not caused by smoking, a poor diet or other lifestyle choices that contribute to a buildup of plaque in the blood vessels.

At the Structural Heart Program, experienced interventional cardiologists, surgeons and others have the experience to recognize when your structural heart disease needs treatment and, if so, what kind of treatment is warranted.

Some adults were born with structural heart conditions and need continuing specialized care throughout their lives from congenital heart defect specialists as children, then adult congenital heart disease specialists as they grow older. The multiple specialists at Norton Children’s Heart Institute, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, have the expertise and skill to care for congenital heart anomalies from birth through adulthood.

Structural Heart Disease Treatments

Some structural heart conditions never need treatment. Others can be managed with surgical intervention or medical therapy.

Increasingly, more structural heart disease patients can be treated with minimally invasive procedures that have them home in a few days.

Some patients need open heart surgery to repair their structural heart disease. But innovative new treatments are developing rapidly.

The structural heart disease specialists at Norton Heart & Vascular Institute are at the forefront of applying minimally invasive treatments that thread tiny tools through blood vessels to the diseased valve and make repairs or even replace it. A tiny incision in your groin or an alternative site will allow your physicians to access your blood vessels, and advanced imaging will help them guide a catheter through your blood vessels to the diseased valve.

The minimally invasive techniques mean there isn’t an incision in the chest, and your heart isn’t temporarily stopped.

Structural heart disease treatments from Norton Heart & Vascular Institute’s board-certified and fellowship-trained interventional cardiologists and cardiac surgeons include transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), transcatheter mitral valve replacement (TMVR) and MitraClip valve repair procedures.

Nurse Navigators

Natasha Gilkey, R.N., BSN

Veronica Wilson, R.N., BSN

Heart and Vascular Care for the Whole Person

Norton Heart & Vascular Institute offers patient resources to support you and your family, including free classes for people of all ages who are seeking to improve cardiovascular health or living with a heart condition.

Cardiac Rehabilitation Program

Our cardiac rehabilitation providers are leaders in developing and applying innovative techniques that can help you recover and resume your life.

Connecting Hearts Support Group

The group provides education and support to individuals who have had a heart attack, are living with a heart condition or are at risk for cardiovascular disease.

Heart Health Screenings

Prevention is the best way to manage heart disease, and screenings are available to detect early signs of cardiac and vascular disease and identify risk factors.

About Norton Heart & Vascular Institute

About 250,000 people a year in Louisville and Southern Indiana choose Norton Heart & Vascular Institute to treat their heart and vascular conditions. That’s more than any other provider in the area.

  • All four of Norton Healthcare’s adult acute-care hospitals are accredited by the American College of Cardiology’s Accreditation Services as Chest Pain Centers, with the highest accreditation level possible for facilities able to treat heart attacks.
  • We have more than 50 board-certified cardiovascular physicians and 35 advanced practice providers. Through training and years of experience, they specialize in areas such as cardiologyinterventional cardiologycardiothoracic surgerythoracic surgery, electrophysiologyadvanced heart failureand vascular surgery.
  • We offer same-day appointments for new patients.
  • We have 27 locations in Louisville and Southern Indiana. Telecardiology is offered at more than 30 clinical sites in the region.
  • Norton Healthcare has four adult-service cardiac catheterization labs, with 14 state-of-the-art rooms. Norton Audubon Hospital, Norton Brownsboro Hospital and Norton Hospital have received the highest level of cardiac catheterization accreditation from the American College of Cardiology — offering lifesaving, minimally invasive procedures for diagnosis and treatment.
  • Our cardiothoracic surgeons and electrophysiologists have more experience than any provider in the area performing hybrid ablation for atrial fibrillation (A-fib). This innovative treatment also can help patients who have had persistent A-fib for more than a year that hasn’t responded to other treatments.
  • Norton Healthcare is the only health care system in Kentucky to receive the prestigious Mission: Lifeline Regional Trailblazer Award from the American Heart Association for being an innovator in creating a system of care for ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) heart attacks — the most severe type of heart attack.
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