What is Structural Heart Disease?
Structural heart disease results when the heart has an abnormality that doesn’t impact your blood vessels but hurts the heart’s function. These abnormalities can involve the valves, chambers, walls, and pockets of the heart. When these parts are not shaped correctly or damaged, blood flow can be altered. This can lead to serious complications such as stroke, heart failure, or sudden cardiac arrest.
Structural heart disease is also considered a category. Heart conditions that fall in this category include:
- Aortic valve stenosis occurs when the aortic valve has narrowed and cannot open all the way.
- Atrial septal defect (ASD) and Patent foramen oval (PFO) are types of holes that can occur between the upper two chambers of the heart.
- Cardiomyopathy describes changes in the heart muscle in which it becomes stiff and enlarged.
- Heart valve disease occurs when one or more valves are damaged and restrict blood flow.
- Left ventricular hypertrophy occurs when the muscle wall of the heart’s left ventricle thickens.
- Mitral valve regurgitation is the result of the mitral valve allowing blood to leak backward into the heart.
- Myocarditis occurs when the heart muscle becomes inflamed.
Most cases of structural heart disease are present at birth (congenital), although the condition can form in later life. It’s been estimated that one in eight individuals 75 years or older have a moderate to severe structural disease.
High blood pressure, atherosclerosis, a previous heart attack, certain medications, and a history of alcohol or drug abuse may also increase one’s risk of developing structural heart disease.
Structural Heart Disease Symptoms
Symptoms and severity of structural heart disease will vary from patient to patient, but the most common symptoms are:
- Chest pain or tightening
- Heart palpitations/irregular heartbeat
- High blood pressure
- Kidney dysfunction
- Leg cramping
- Shortness of breath/Difficulty exercising
- Transient ischemic attack (TIA) also know as a mini-stroke
Diagnosing Structural Heart Disease
Since many cases of structural heart defects are congenital, they are often detected at or before birth.
As you age, structural heart disease can be more difficult to detect. Some heart defects can run in families, so talk to your doctor if a close relative had this type of heart condition. Sometimes a doctor will notice a problem, such as a heart murmur, by listening to the heart through a stethoscope.
If your doctor suspects structural heart disease, there are a variety of tests that can be used to confirm a diagnosis. These may include an echocardiogram and/or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the heart, a chest X-ray to look at the heart’s shape, and an electrocardiogram to assess the heart’s rhythm. In some cases, your doctor may perform a catheterization procedure to identify places where blood vessels are blocked or narrowed.
Treatment of Structural Heart Disease
Monitoring & Medication
Not all cases of structural heart disease require treatment. However, a patient will at least need to be monitored throughout their life for changes. Some patients may benefit from medication to help manage the side effects of their condition such as blood thinners for those in which blood clots pose a risk.
Minimally Invasive Intervention
Thanks to advances in technology, most cases that require treatment can be done using a minimally-invasive catheter-based approach.
At Clearwater Cardiovascular Consultants, we perform the following structural heart procedures:
- Atrial Septal Defect/Patent Foramen Ovale Repair: ASD and PFO holes can be repaired by implanting closure devices through a small incision in the femoral vein in the groin. Larger or more complex defects may require surgery.
- Paravalvular Plugs: A paravalvular leak can be repaired by a device that acts as a plug to stop the leak. The procedure is performed by inserting a catheter into the femoral vein in the groin to place the device.
- Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR): In this procedure, a new valve is placed inside the old, damaged valve without the original valve being removed. The procedure is performed with a catheter via an incision in the femoral artery or via a small incision in the chest.
- Mitral Valve Repair (MitraClip): A catheter is inserted through the femoral vein to access the mitral valve. A small device called a MitraClip is attached to the mitral valve so the valve can close more completely and prevent mitral regurgitation.
Request an Appointment
The physicians at Clearwater Cardiovascular Consultants have expertise in a range of outpatient cardiovascular services, including those needed to diagnose and treat structural heart disease. We offer patients comprehensive care that is backed by experience, expertise, and the latest technology. Call Clearwater Cardiovascular Consultants at 727-445-1911 to make an appointment or request an appointment online.