Leading-edge Treatment for Structural and Valvular Heart Valve Disease

Heart valves control the flow of blood through the upper and lower chambers of your heart. When your valves are healthy, the blood flows in the right direction, at the proper time, with the right amount of force. When you have heart valve disease, the valves may become narrow or hardened and don’t open and close properly. This does not allow the blood to flow correctly and can lead to heart failure. A defect or a hole between the upper chambers of the heart can lead to stroke, pulmonary embolism or heart failure.

Types of structural heart valve disease include:

  • Aortic valve disease – narrowing of the heart valve that typically requires a valve replacement either by traditional open surgery or by a minimally invasive technique - transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR).
  • Mitral valve disease – leaking or narrowing mitral valve (valve between left atrium and ventricle). The mitral valve can either leak (mitral regurgitation) or get narrowed (mitral stenosis). Leaking of the mitral valve (mitral regurgitation) is the most frequent heart valve disease in the United States.
  • Valvular atrial fibrillation – mitral valve disease can also lead to atrial fibrillation (AFib). AFib can cause blood to pool in your heart and increase your risk of stroke.
  • Percutaneous perivalvular leak – a complication from a valve replacement occurring in approximately 12% of surgical valve replacements.

Symptoms, Diagnosis and Outlook


Valve disease often has no symptoms as the disease develops, then symptoms can occur relatively quickly. The disease often advances slowly, allowing your heart to adjust to the changing valve. Some people may have severe symptoms early in the development of valve disease.

Symptoms are similar to congestive heart failure, and include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Dizziness and lightheartedness
  • Rapid and irregular heartbeat
  • Swollen feet and legs (water retention)
  • Trouble breathing when laying down
  • Coughing that worsens when lying down
  • Fever
  • Frequent urination
  • Bloated stomach (water retention)
  • Weight gain
  • Nausea
  • Feeling full after eating
  • Confusion


When you are diagnosed with valve disease, the team at Penn State Health will work with you and your family to develop a treatment plan that manages your symptoms and helps maintain your quality of life. We may perform additional tests to develop your treatment plan, including:

  • Cardiac catheterization
  • Echocardiogram
  • Imaging tests
  • Nuclear thallium test
  • Stress echocardiogram


Heart valve disease usually progresses over time. In order to maintain your quality of life, surgical repair or valve replacement may be necessary. The experts at Penn State Health offer the most innovative procedures for heart valve disease, including transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), MitraClip® Percutaneous Mitral Valve Repair and Watchman.

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Why Choose Penn State Health for Care

The experts at Penn State Health offer innovative treatment options to treat advanced heart valve disease. Some patients will benefit from traditional open heart valve surgeries, while others may be candidates for less invasive surgery methods. The minimally invasive surgeries allow for a quicker recovery and less time spent in the hospital.

Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) is a minimally invasive procedure to replace a damaged valve. During the procedure, a small tube is threaded through an artery in the groin to the heart. Through the tube, a collapsed heart valve is advanced up to the heart and expanded. The new valve starts functioning immediately, while the damaged valve is pushed to the side and does not need to be removed from the body.

MitraClip® Percutaneous Mitral Valve Repair is a minimally invasive procedure to repair a leaky valve. During the procedure, a tube is threaded through an artery to the right top chamber of the heart. The MitraClip system is then maneuvered across the mitral valve and placed at the site of the leak, reducing the regurgitation.

Multidisciplinary Team Approach

Penn State Heart and Vascular Institute has decades of experience in successfully treating patients with valve disease, including the most complex cases. The multidisciplinary team of experts works in a collaborative fashion to discuss and treat each patient with the goal of providing individualized care, to achieve the best possible outcome while keeping patients’ values in mind.

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