Structural and valvular heart disease treatment at Denver Heart

There are multiple types of heart disease. Structural heart disease refers to a non-coronary defect or abnormality of the heart, which means that the defect or abnormality does not affect the blood vessels. In many instances, structural heart conditions are present at birth (congenital). However, structural heart disease can occur later in life, usually due to wear and tear on the heart (aging), an infection, or another underlying health condition.

The cardiac specialists and cardiologists at Denver Heart provide a high level of care and treatment for patients with heart defects and heart disease.

Valvular heart disease (also called heart valve disease), refers to diseases that occur in the four valves of the heart: the mitral, tricuspid, aortic and pulmonic valves. With these types of valvular heart disease, the tissues that form the valve leaflets might narrow the valve open, which reduces the amount of blood flowing through the heart. Or, the valve leaflets might not be closing completely, which results in blood flowing backward to the valve.

Types of structural heart disease

There are several structural heart conditions. Some of the most common ones are:

  • Atrial septal defect (ASD) — An opening between the upper chambers of the heart that doesn’t close after birth. This congenital defect causes oxygen-rich blood to leak into the oxygen-poor blood chambers in the heart.
  • Patent foramen ovale (PFO) — A condition in which there are “holes” in the tissue walls of the left and right upper chambers of the heart. Having a hole in one’s heart might not cause major health problems, but some people with PFO do need treatment or surgery for this condition.
  • Ventricular septal defect (VSD) — Refers to a hole in the tissue wall that separates the lower two chambers of the heart. VSD is a very common heart defect in children.
  • Paravalvular leak (PVL) — A rare complication that occurs in a few patients who have had a heart valve replacement. A large paravalvular leak could lead to heart failure and an increased risk of infection.
  • Arteriovenous fistula — A term used to describe an abnormal connection between an artery and a vein. If left untreated, a large arteriovenous fistula could lead to serious health complications, like blood clots, bleeding or even heart failure.
  • Pseudoaneurysms — Also known as a “false aneurysm,” this occurs when there is a leak of arterial blood from an artery into the surrounding tissue. Some pseudoaneurysms require treatment to prevent hemorrhage or other health complications.

Types of valvular heart disease

In general, heart valve disease can be congenital (present at birth) or acquired (developed later in life).

  • Congenital valve disease — Congenital valve disease typically affects the aortic of pulmonic valve and could be the result of abnormal valve size, leaflets that don’t form correctly or an abnormal leaflet attachment. One congenital heart valve condition, bicuspid aortic disease, runs in families and affects between 1 and 2 percent of the population.
  • Acquired valvular disease — Refers to conditions in which the heart valves once functioned normally. Acquired valve diseases could be caused by an infection, such as rheumatic fever, or changes in the valve structure.

Surgery for heart defects and heart disease

Certain heart defects, such as PFO, might not need surgical intervention. The American Heart Association (AHA) reports that roughly one-quarter of the population has a hole in their heart, but this condition does necessarily result in serious health problems. However, structural or valvular heart disease could be the cause of heart palpitations (irregular heartbeat), stroke, a transient ischemic attack (sometimes called a mini-stroke), high blood pressure, or coronary artery disease.

Surgeries for structural or valvular heart disease are not limited to, but include:

  • PFO Closure — A minimally-invasive procedure that involves implanting a device that “straddles” the hole and remains in the heart permanently. This procedure does not require extensive or long-term cardiac rehabilitation.
  • ASD Closure — Closing this type of hole in the heart largely depends on the size of the hole. Open-heart surgery can correct ASD, but there are other procedures to fix this condition as well, such as cardiac catheterization.
  • Left Atrial Appendage (LAA) Occlusion (Lariat procedure) — The Lariat procedure is done to close and seal off the left atrial appendage (LAA), a small sac in the muscle wall of the left atrium. Patients with AFib can have blood clots form and collect in this area, which can then be sent out of the heart, causing a stroke. The Lariat is a small lasso-like device that goes around the appendage to close it off and prevent stroke.
  • AFib implant procedure — An innovative procedure that can reduce the risk of stroke for patients with AFib. In partnership with Denver Heart, Rose Medical Center is one of first hospitals in Colorado to offer this minimally-invasive procedure for heart patients.
  • TAVR — Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) is an approach to aortic valve replacement that uses catheters instead of open-heart surgery. This approach is used for patients who are too high risk for open-heart surgery.
  • Transcatheter mitral valve repair — An implant is used to repair a transcatheter mitral valve. This implant treats patients with severe degenerative mitral regurgitation (leaky heart valve) who are not candidates for open heart surgery. Surgeons use a catheter inserted in the leg to reach the mitral valve and clip the mitral valve, restoring normal blood flow to the heart.

Expert care and treatment for heart patients

The cardiac specialists and cardiologists at Denver Heart provide a high level of care and treatment for patients with heart defects and heart disease. Our surgeons utilize state-of-the-art, innovative treatment methods and offer non-surgical, minimally-invasive procedure options for patients with a heart condition.