valvular heart disease | Dr Raghu

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Mitral stenosis is a form of valvular heart disease caused by the narrowing of the mitral valve. Mitral valve lies between the left atrium and left ventricle of the heart which is made up of two flaps of tissue called leaflets. It opens when the blood flows from left atrium and left ventricle and closes immediately to prevent the backward flow of the blood. The defective valve fails to either open or close completely.

The most common cause of mitral stenosis is an infection called rheumatic fever. It is an inflammatory condition that usually starts with strep throat and leads to permanent damage of heart valves. Rheumatic fever is now rare in developed countries, but the prevalence is still high in developing countries. It may scar the mitral valve and if left untreated, mitral stenosis may lead to severe heart complications. Mitral stenosis can be classified into three types – mild, moderate and severe depending on the severity.

Symptoms:

The progression of is slow, and the symptoms generally appear after 20 to 40 years after an episode of rheumatic fever. However, an individual with mitral stenosis may feel fine or have minimal symptoms for decades. They include:

  • Shortness of breath, especially during physical effort or when you lie down
  • Chest discomfort or chest pain
  • Fatigue and weakness, especially during increased physical activity and during pregnancy
  • Swollen feet or legs
  • Heart palpitations – sensations of a rapid, fluttering heartbeat
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Coughing up blood
  • Thromboembolic complications such as stroke

Mitral stenosis symptoms may worsen due to any activity that can cause an increase in the heart rate. The pressure which is built up in the heart due to mitral stenosis causes fluid buildup in the lungs. The symptoms of mitral stenosis usually appear between ages of 15 to 40 years. But they can appear in any age or even during childhood.

The signs that can be found during general examination include:

  • Heart murmur observed using stethoscope during clinical examination
  • Fluid buildup in the lungs
  • Irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias)

Causes:

  • Rheumatic fever: The major cause of mitral stenosis is rheumatic fever. Rheumatic fever is a complication of strep throat which can damage mitral valve by thickening or fusing the valves.
  • Other causes include:
  • Calcium deposits: People of older age can develop calcium deposits. This leads to calcification of the mitral valve leaflets resulting in mitral valve stenosis.
  • Congenital heart disease: Some babies may be born with a narrowed mitral valve, that may lead to mitral stenosis.

Risk factors:

The individuals with the following conditions are at risk of mitral stenosis:

  • Infective endocarditis
  • Endomyocardial fibroelastosis
  • Malignant carcinoid syndrome
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Whipple disease
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

Diagnosis:

The diagnosis of mitral stenosis could follow an invasive or non-invasive method.

The noninvasive procedures include:

Electrocardiogram (ECG):  In this procedure, the electrodes are attached to pads on patients’ skin to measure electrical impulses from the heart which provides information about heart rhythm. The patient is either made to walk on a treadmill or pedal a stationary bike during an Electrocardiogram (ECG) to see how the heart responds to exertion.

Echocardiogram: The echocardiogram is a very useful tool to assess the mitral stenosis etiology, morphology, severity, and treatment intervention.

Two types of echocardiogram are performed which include:

  • Transthoracic echocardiogram: This test is used to confirm the diagnosis of mitral stenosis. In this procedure, the sound waves are directed to patients’ heart from a transducer held near the chest which produces video images of heart in motion.
  • Transesophageal echocardiogram: In this procedure a small transducer is attached to the end of a tube which is inserted into esophagus. This provides a closer look at the mitral valve when compared to regular echocardiogram.
  • Chest X-ray: The chest X-ray is used to observe the size of the heart size, prominent main pulmonary arteries, dilatation of the upper pulmonary veins, and displacement of the esophagus by an enlarged left atrium. If the condition is severe there could be enlargement of all the chambers, pulmonary arteries, and pulmonary veins. The chest X-ray also helps to identify the condition of lungs.

The invasive procedures include:

Cardiac catheterization: Cardiac catheterization is an invasive procedure and is performed when the noninvasive tests are inconclusive or when there is a no correlation between noninvasive tests and clinical findings. It involves threading a thin tube (catheter) through a blood vessel in the patients arm or groin to the coronary artery in the heart and injecting dye through the catheter to make the artery visible on an X-ray. This provides a detailed picture of your heart.

These cardiac tests help in distinguishing mitral valve stenosis from other heart conditions, including other mitral valve conditions. These tests also help reveal the cause of your mitral valve stenosis and whether the valve can be repaired.

Prevention:

The patients with mild mitral stenosis without any symptoms generally do not require an immediate treatment, but are monitored continuously. Medications are prescribed to ease the workload of the heart and to regulate its rhythm, thus reducing the symptoms. The following medications may be prescribed:

  • Diuretics to reduce fluid accumulation in the body or lungs
  • Blood thinners (anticoagulants) such as daily intake of aspirin to help prevent blood clots
  • Beta blockers or calcium channel blockers to slow your heart rate and allow your heart to fill more effectively
  • Anti-arrhythmics to treat atrial fibrillation or other rhythm disturbances
  • Antibiotics to prevent a recurrence of rheumatic fever if it is an underlying cause for the condition

The Treatment Involves Surgical or Nonsurgical Procedures

Nonsurgical procedures:

Percutaneous balloon mitral valvuloplasty

In this procedure, which is also called balloon mitral valvotomy, a soft, thin tube (catheter) tipped with a balloon is inserted in an artery of the patients arm or groin and guided into the narrowed valve. Once in position, the balloon is inflated to widen the valve, improving the blood flow. The balloon is then deflated, and the catheter with balloon is removed.

Surgical options include:

  • Commissurotomy: An open-heart surgery is performed to remove calcium deposits and other scar tissues to clear the valve passageway.
  • Mitral valve replacement: Mitral valve replacement is considered if it cannot be repaired. In mitral valve replacement, the damaged valve is removed and is replaced with a mechanical valve or a biological tissue valve.

Prevention:

The prevention of mitral stenosis is largely dependent on preventing the occurrence of rheumatic fever, which is the major cause of the condition. However, if one acquires rheumatic fever, the following measures can help live a healthy life.

  • Limit intake of salt.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Decrease caffeine intake.
  • Seek prompt medical attention.
  • Cut back on alcohol.
  • Perform regular exercise.
  • Go for regular checkups.

MITRAL VALVE DISEASE – Mitral Stenosis( in Telugu)

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      Heart is a complex organ and can get affected by diseases that can affect various systems of the heart. The common heart ailments that would be observed include:

      Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) – accumulation of cholesterol plaques within the walls of the blood vessels (coronary arteries) supplying the heart. This leads to obstruction to blood flow of the heart that can cause chest pain or heart attack. 

      Valvular heart disease: Heart valves are flap-like structures akin to doors between rooms. They control the blood flow between various chambers of the heart. They play a key role in blood circulation. 

      There are four valves in the heart

      • mitral and aortic valves on the left side of the heart 
      • tricuspid and pulmonary valves on the right. 

      These valves can either get narrowed (stenosis) or get “leaky” (regurgitation).

      Cardiomyopathy: This disease affects the heart muscle leading to inefficient heart pumping efficiency. Cardiomyopathy can be either due to:

      • Direct heart muscle diseases – Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, Dilated Cardiomyopathy and Restrictive Cardiomyopathy.
      • Indirect heart muscle diseases –
        • Consequent to 
          • heart attack (ischemic cardiomyopathy)
          • infective (myocarditis) and 
          • heart rhythm problems
      • Heart Rhythm problems (Arrhythmias)- Normal heart rate is between 50-100 beats per minute. The maintenance of heart rhythm within a specific range is possible due to an efficient electrical system of the heart also called the conduction system.
        • Slow heart rate – Bradycardia usually due to retardation of conduction within the conduction system of the heart. The most common cause is due to age related degeneration of the conduction system. The garden variety disease causing slow heart rate is called complete heart block.
        • Fast heart rate – Tachycardia in this disease there is an accelerated conduction of electrical impulses – if the fast heart arises in the lower chambers of the heart (ventricles) it is called ventricular tachycardia if it arises in the upper chambers (atria) of the heart it is called supraventricular tachycardia.

      Doctors usually recommend a battery of tests based on the system of the heart that has been affected. Based on a detailed history followed by a detailed physical examination, appropriate battery of tests would be suggested. The diagnosis of the heart ailment is critically dependent on the results of tests.

      In addition to confirming the diagnosis, test results might indicate the disease complications and thus your doctor is able to stage the disease and the possible outcomes.

      Related : Basics about Heart Failure

      Blood tests:

      1. Complete blood count (CBC): A complete blood count helps to detect infection, anaemia and other blood disorders. Anaemia is a common finding in heart failure, plus it also contributes to worsening of heart failure. A low platelet count may be caused by medications such as diuretics or heparin.
      2. Cardiac troponins (cTn1, cTnT, high sensitivity troponins): It is an important blood biomarker useful for the detection and predicting outcomes of chest pain or heart attack. Cardiac troponins may also be high in other heart related conditions like acute myocarditis, coronary vasospasm and non-cardiac conditions (e.g. sepsis, chronic kidney disease).
      3. Electrolytes, urea and creatinine: Assessment of kidney function is essential in all cardiac patients. Both kidney and cardiac disease share the same risk factors and either disease can lead to poor outcomes of the other disease. In addition, cardiac drugs’ doses need to be modified considering the kidney function.
      4. Liver function tests:: Certain drugs such as statins and amiodarone, which are commonly prescribed for patients with heart disease, can trigger liver failure. Liver failure could also be a consequence of heart failure.
      5. Thyroid function test: Medication for heart disease like amiodarone may cause hyper or hypo thyroidism. Altered thyroid hormone can also cause heart dysfunction and responsible for coronary artery disease.
      6. Brain Natriuretic Peptides (BNP or N-terminal pro BNP): BNP is a useful tool to differentiate between cardiac and non-cardiac causes of shortness of breath. High levels of BNP and N terminal pro BNP is associated with increased severity of heart disease and greater risk of hospitalization.
      Related: Types of Heart Failure

      Electrocardiography(ECG):

      This test detects and records the electrical activity of the heart. This is a simple, non-invasive test which is very useful to determine abnormalities in the heart rate, rhythm and to identify risk of damaged heart muscle or other structural changes in the heart. This test detects the presence of arrhythmias and coronary artery disease.

      Exercise stress testing:

      Exercise makes your heart work harder. Exercise stress testing is done either on a treadmill or cycle ergometry with the patient connected to an electrocardiogram. Exercise stress testing may identify myocardial ischaemia, haemodynamic/ electrical instability, or other exertion-related signs or symptoms. When an individual is not able to exercise, medications are given to stress the heart and the response is evaluated.

      Chest X-ray:

      Chest X ray is very useful to differentiate whether shortness of breath is due to a respiratory disease or heart disease. It can also help in detecting complications of heart failure such as cardiomegaly, interstitial oedema, pulmonary oedema and pleural effusions.

      Coronary angiography:

      Coronary angiography is useful to determine the health of the coronary arteries. In this test, a catheter is inserted into the coronary arteries and a dye is injected to produce clear X ray images of the coronary arteries. This helps to find out the presence, location and extent of vessel narrowing. The results also help to decide which type of treatment would be most appropriate for correction of heart problem.

      Echocardiography:

      This test gives an ultrasound image of the heart. Echocardiography can provide information about the size and shape of heart chambers, blood flow velocities, heart muscle function when they contract and relax, abnormalities of the movement of the heart wall, valve function, and presence of thrombus (blood clot) in the heart.

      Stress echocardiography helps in detecting decreased blood flow to heart during exertion. In this test, echocardiography is done immediately post stress. The stress can be exercise or could be induced by medications.

      Myocardial perfusion scanning (MPS):

      MPS is a non-invasive test which helps to determine how well blood flows through your heart muscles. In this test, a small amount of a radioactive substance is injected into the blood. The test evaluates the severity of coronary artery disease and provides guidance regarding the need as well as success of invasive procedures like angioplasty and stent insertion. 

      Cardiac Computerized Tomography (CT):

      Cardiac CT provides detailed images of the heart. This helps to identify structural abnormalities in the heart and blood vessels such as aneurysms, valve dysfunction and damage to the pulmonary vasculature. Cardiac CT also provides information about patency of grafts following coronary artery bypass graft.

      Cardiac Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI):

      Cardiac MRI uses strong magnetic fields and radiofrequency to provide detailed 3D images of the heart and surrounding structures. The image provides accurate information about cardiac volumes, muscle mass, contractility, and how efficiently the heart is pumping. Like cardiac CT, cardiac MRI also helps to provide information about patency of grafts following coronary artery bypass graft.

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