Heart Valve Disease​​

A healthy heart circulates blood in a one-way loop, controlled by a system of four valves: the mitral, the aortic, the tricuspid, and the pulmonary. If these valves fail to open or close properly, the heart loses its ability to pump blood throughout the body, eventually starving organs of oxygen and nutrients.
Valves can be improperly formed, scarred, stretched, weakened, or thinned. Supportive structures may loosen or tear. If a valve does not fully close, blood can leak through the opening and go in the wrong direction, which is called regurgitation. Stenosis is when the valve is blocked and does not open correctly. Sometimes a valve neither opens nor closes properly.
There are several types of heart valve diseases:

  • Mitral valve disease: a condition in which a valve in the left chambers of the heart does not function correctly. 

  • Aortic valve disease: this is a condition in which the main valve which connects to the heart to the aorta (and the rest of the body) does not work properly

  • Pulmonary valve disease: this disease occurs when a valve responsible for directing blood flow to the lungs, malfunctions. 

  • Tricuspid valve disease: a condition in which a valve in the right chambers of the heart does not function correctly. ​

It is common for individuals with valvular heart disease to have no symptoms. If they do, the symptoms are sometimes attributed to other health conditions. Anyone experiencing one or more of the following symptoms should discuss them with a physician:

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

  • Swollen ankles or feet

  • Wheezing

  • Coughing

  • Fatigue

  • Dizziness

  • Fainting

  • Palpitations, or unusual awareness of heartbeat

  • Chest pain or pressure​

If you are facing any of the symptoms listed above, contact your doctor immediately. The Heart, Lungs and Vascular Services at The Aga Khan University Hospital is amongst the nation’s best. Rest assured you will receive quality healthcare at treatment at our facili​ties.​
​Your time with your doctor may be limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started.​

Tests which are commonly prescribed to diagnose the type and severity of heart valve diseases include:

  • Chest X-ray. Your doctor will examine the shape and size of your heart with the help of the X-ray.

  • Clinical imaging tests. These include:

  • Echocardiogram: 

    • 1. Trans-thoracic echocardiography is a non-invasive ultrasound test that takes images of the heart through the chest.
    • ​2. Trans-oesophageal echocardiography: is an invasive ultrasound test using a specialized probe that takes images of the heart. 

These tests help to diagnose valve disease and its effects on the heart. 

  • Cardiac CT (Computerized Tomography) scan:  this is done to acquire images of your chest and heart  and diagnose problems with heart structure such as valve disease

  • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging): this test also takes images of your heart using magnetic signals. 

It is considered to be the gold standard for diagnosing severity of valve disease, and is especially useful in difficult situations. The Aga Khan University Hospital has a specialized team with expertise in this modality. 

  • Exercise/stress tests: this test records how well your heart performs when exposed to exercise or other forms of physical exertion. 

  • Electrophysiology: these tests gauge the rhythms of the heart and check for irregular activity which is associated with valve disease​

Treatment of heart valvular heart disease largely depends on the type of valvular disease. These include the following:   

  • Monitoring the disease: this option is advisable for diseases which are not severe. Monitoring will be done through regular checkups.

  • Medication. These will relax your heart and relieve it from pressure as well as keep its rhythm in check. 

  • Surgery. Depending upon the degree of damage, the affected heart valves will be repaired or replaced. During surgery, transesophageal echocardiogram is done to demonstrate the mechanism of the valve malfunction so that the patient's own valve can be repaired and then checked for function after repair. Thus the patient can be spared the need for blood thinners etc. required for artificial valves. These operations can often be done through "key hole” incisions. ​​

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.​

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.