Structural Heart Program

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The Norton Heart & Vascular Institute Structural Heart Program treats conditions that occur from aging, injury or infection. These conditions most often affect the heart valves.

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.

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, causing blood regurgitation, or open sufficiently, causing stenosis. These conditions can develop over time and often don’t need treatment. Sometimes blood thinners can help. Regular monitoring can help prevent structural heart disease from leading to serious complications.

Structural Heart Program at Norton Heart & Vascular Institute

The Norton Heart & Vascular Institute Structural Heart Program brings together the talents of cardiothoracic surgeons, interventional cardiologists, electrophysiologists and advanced 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. It’s like getting a second or third opinion in one visit.

He Never Noticed He Had a Congenital Heart Defect, Until It Finally Caught Up With Him

Barry had a bicuspid aortic valve that was causing his atrial fibrillation. A valve in Barry’s heart that regulates blood flowing out to his body had two flaps instead of three. It’s a condition he inherited and that often goes undetected until adulthood.

Read Barry’s Story

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

You’ll work closely with your structural heart team and have follow-up appointments with them at Norton Audubon Hospital.

A nurse navigator is dedicated to the Structural Heart Program. This health care professional helps guide you through your care, with assistance such as education on how your condition may affect your life and care. Your navigator can help with insurance, planning aftercare and 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.

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. Congenital heart disease specialists treat them as children, then as they grow into adulthood, adult congenital heart disease specialists take over their unique heart care. 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 Conditions

Some structural heart conditions never need treatment. Others can be managed with medical therapy, minimally invasive procedures or surgery.

Examples of structural heart conditions include

  • Aortic stenosis
  • Aortic regurgitation
  • Bioprosthetic aortic valve stenosis/regurgitation
  • Bioprosthetic mitral valve stenosis
  • Tricuspid regurgitation
  • Mitral regurgitation
  • Left atrial appendage management
  • Patent foramen ovale (PFO)
  • Complex valvular heart disease

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

The Structural Heart Program 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.

These innovative treatments are developing rapidly, but some conditions and patients still require open heart surgery.

Structural Heart Disease Treatment Options

Structural Cardiology

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

Every year, more than 137,000 people in Louisville and Southern Indiana choose Norton Heart & Vascular Institute specialists for their heart and vascular care. That’s more than any other health care provider.

  • Norton Healthcare’s adult-service hospitals in Louisville all have received Chest Pain Center accreditation from the American College of Cardiology (ACC). This is the seventh consecutive accreditation for all four hospitals, which ensures quality for the treatment of heart attack.
  • Norton Audubon Hospital, Norton Brownsboro Hospital and Norton Hospital all are recognized as having ACC Chest Pain Center with Primary PCI accreditation.
  • Norton Healthcare has the most facilities across the city of Louisville with the ability treat a life-threatening heart attack.
  • You have access to more than 100 physicians and advanced practice providers with specialized training and experience in a comprehensive range of conditions and treatments.
  • Patients can make appointments at 28 locations in Louisville and Southern Indiana. Telecardiology is offered at more than 30 sites in the region.
  • Norton Audubon Hospital, a key location for Norton Heart & Vascular Institute services, has been recognized with a HeartCare Center National Distinction of Excellence year after year by the American College of Cardiology. This is the only hospital in Louisville to be recognized for this distinction.
  • U.S. News & World Report 2023-24 Best Hospitals ranked Norton Healthcare’s adult-service hospitals in Louisville as high performing in heart attack, heart failure, aortic valve surgery and heart bypass surgery.
  • Norton Audubon Hospital earned ventricular assist device (VAD) accreditation from DNV – Healthcare and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
  • Communicate with your health care provider, renew prescriptions, get lab results and more through your free Norton MyChart account.

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