Q: How is valvular heart disease best diagnosed?
A: Echocardiography, which is an ultrasound exam of the heart, is often used when evaluating a patient with suspected or known valvular disease. It provides important information about the structure and function of the valves and of the heart muscle. Just like other ultrasound techniques, echocardiography is very safe. It is non-invasive, does not involve radiation, and is relatively fast to perform.
Q: What other diagnostic tests may I need?
A: In addition to regular echocardiography, 3-dimensional echocardiogram may be used in order to provide more detailed anatomic picture of the heart. Some valvular pathology is better assessed using an echocardiogram probe mounted on a tube that is inserted into the stomach, in a test referred to as transesophageal echocardiography (TEE).
At Stony Brook Medicine, we have the ability to perform 3-dimensional TEE that provides more accurate and detailed information, and is available to be used whenever your doctors think it is indicated.
Sometimes a stress echocardiogram will be performed so your doctors can evaluate your functional capacity, assess your heart function during stress or evaluate for development of exertional symptoms. Other diagnostic tests may be necessary and could all be performed in our institution, including CT, MRI, or cardiac catheterization.
You can always be assured that our doctors will evaluate all the tests you already have had done, and will perform only those tests essential to fully understand your problem and guide treatment.
Q: How often do I need to have theses tests done?
A: Sometimes, depending on what our doctors find, they may recommend that you come back at a later point and repeat the echocardiogram and possibly also the stress test. This decision is based on the degree of your valvular disease, on your symptoms as well as other parameters such as the affect of the valvular disease on the heart muscle and pressures in the lungs. All these parameters would also be taken into consideration when deciding how often you come back for follow up and for repeat testing. The follow-up plan will be discussed with you during your visit to our Valve Center, as well as situations in which you should return for evaluation sooner.
Q: Can my mitral valve be repaired?
A: Yes. More than 90% of mitral valves can be repaired versus conventional mitral valve replacement. This will allow you to preserve your own tissue and preserve your heart function. Additionally, you will have less risk of infection and more long-term durability and improvement in your symptoms over the course of your lifetime.
Q: Can my valve be repaired with a minimally invasive procedure?
A: Yes. The majority of all isolated valve procedures can be done with a small incision. This will allow quicker recovery, less pain, and faster return to work.
Q: Can the robot be used to fix my valve?
A: Yes. In mitral valve surgery, we can use the latest in robotic technology to repair your valve. This allows the surgeon improved dexterity, visualization, and repair techniques to give you the best mitral valve repair. It also allows for a faster recovery, less pain, and quicker return to work.
Q: What are the risks of valve surgery?
A: The risks for isolated mitral valve repair or aortic valve surgery are minimal, and are similar to any surgery. They include the risk of bleeding, infection, pneumonia, organ failure, stroke, and even a small risk of death. In general, these complications are expected in less than 5% of patients. During your consultation, your surgeon can tell you what your specific risks are.
Q: How long will it take before I feel well after valve surgery?
A: For most patients who have valve surgery, it takes about 2-3 weeks to feel well, while some healing and recovery occur months thereafter. Actually, most patients typically feel better than before surgery once their valve is repaired. This should give you better quality of life.
Q: Are any non-surgical treatments available for valve problems?
A: Replacement of aortic valves without using open heart surgery is now done at a select number of hospitals, including Stony Brook University Hospital. Treatments for mitral valve leakages have also been developed for patients considered too high a risk for surgery.