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.