When it comes to heart valve disease, treatment plans vary depending on the individual needs of each patient. Many patients with minor valve problems can live a full and healthy life without any treatment. Other patients with more serious conditions may require medication, medical procedures and/or surgery to correct their condition.
To ensure that all patients receive the best possible care, the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association continue to update guidelines for the treatment of heart valve disease based on the latest research findings. According to their most recent update, which revises guidelines from 2006 and 2008, here are the key points every patient should know about the management of heart valve disease in 2014:
- There are four stages of heart valve disease, which range from patients at risk for the condition to patients with severe heart valve disease who experience debilitating symptoms. These stages are progressive, which means that conditions often worsen over time. Depending on where a patient falls on this spectrum of disease, treatment options will vary.
- It takes a village to provide heart valve patients with the best possible care. Patients with heart valve disease should have a team of health care providers who work together to help manage their condition. At the very least, each team should consist of a cardiologist and a cardiac surgeon and ideally, they should also include other experts who specialize in the management of patients with severe heart valve disease.
- Patients who need treatment for valve disease should consult with experts from a “Heart Valve Center of Excellence,” which has plenty of experience treating patients with this condition. It’s important that doctors refer patients with valve disease to these centers of excellence to ensure that each patient receives the best possible care.
- Exercise testing is extremely useful in evaluating certain patients with heart valve disease. It should be used more widely to help assess the health of heart valve patients, especially those with severe valve disease who don’t have symptoms.
When a patient needs aortic valve replacement, surgery is usually the best option. However, when surgery is too risky for certain patients, a less invasive procedure called a transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) may be a safe and effective treatment option.
Read the full guidelines in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Learn about CardioSmart's editorial process. Information provided for educational purposes only. Please talk to your health care professional about your specific needs.