Is a leaky heart valve serious?
Is a leaky heart valve serious? Will it kill you? How long can you live with a leaky heart valve? If you have valve regurgitation or you know somebody who does, these questions have probably crossed your mind. After all, it is a heart condition.
Heart valve regurgitation occurs when blood flows back through one of the heart valves when the heart contracts. The problem, which can come on suddenly or develop gradually over time, can be serious, yet that isn’t always the case.
Sometimes, the valve leakage is minor and requires little to no treatment. Other times, the regurgitation is severe and places considerable strain on the heart. Then, leaking heart valve surgery and other treatments may be necessary. In general, the seriousness of a leaky heart valve depends upon the degree of regurgitation and how it interferes with the flow of blood through the heart and body.
Is a leaky heart valve life threatening?
For people asking “Is a leaky heart valve serious,” heart valve regurgitation can be fatal. When a heart valve leak is severe, the heart needs to work harder to pump the same amount of blood. It affects how blood is able to flow to the body’s organs. This can cause leaky heart valve symptoms (shortness of breath, fatigue, coughing, angina, palpitations, etc.) and potentially deadly complications.
Is a leaky heart valve life threatening? It can be if a person develops problems such as congestive heart failure, edema (water retention), atrial fibrillation, blood clotting, or pulmonary hypertension. Pulmonary hypertension is a type of high blood pressure that affects the lung arteries and the right side of the heart. The disorder can lead to heart enlargement and heart failure if left untreated.
Heart failure, which may present as chronic or acute, is the most common complication of heart valve regurgitation. It is also one of the most dangerous. Heart failure occurs when the heart muscle is unable to pump enough blood to meet the requirements of organs and tissues in the body for oxygen and nutrients. Without sufficient blood flow, all major bodily functions are disrupted.
Infective endocarditis is another possible complication of heart valve regurgitation. This is an infection of the endocardium that can shorten leaking heart valve life expectancy and cause leaky heart valve death. It is caused by bacteria entering the bloodstream through activities such as tooth brushing and settling on the valves. People with leaking valves are more likely to develop endocarditis.
How long can you live with leaky heart valve?
It depends on the nature and severity of the condition and how it progresses. If the leaking valve or its components are severely damaged/malformed and there is a high degree of regurgitation and other heart problems, the risk of dangerous complications is higher. Regurgitation type also affects leaking heart valves life expectancy. For example, sudden death can occur with acute regurgitation.
Generally, complications worsen the prognosis with mitral regurgitation, aortic regurgitation, tricuspid regurgitation, and pulmonary valve regurgitation, especially with a leaking heart valve in elderly patients. The body weakens with age and inevitably becomes frailer. This makes it harder for men and women who have heart valve disease to withstand physical symptoms and treatments.
Is a leaky heart valve serious? Sometimes it is. But, with effective leaky heart valve treatment, it is usually possible to increase life expectancy and improve quality of life, even with complications. The key to improving prognosis is consistency with treatment once the correct treatment plan has been established based on medical testing and evaluation by an experienced cardiac specialist.
Valve regurgitation treatment can have a major impact on how long a person can live with a leaky heart valve. With mild regurgitation, medications can help to control the condition, but surgery is often necessary with severe regurgitation. Lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, exercising, and eating healthy are normally an important part of the treatment plan with all forms of regurgitation.
How is a leaky heart valve fixed?
Leaky heart valve surgery is the only way to fix a leaking heart valve. This typically involves undergoing open heart surgery, where a surgeon cuts open the sternum to repair or replace the regurgitating valve and its structures. However, minimally invasive heart valve surgery is becoming more and more common. It may be a better approach for some heart patients who qualify as candidates.
Potential benefits of minimally invasive heart surgery include a lower risk of infection and less blood loss, pain, and trauma. A faster recovery and shorter hospital stay are other advantages with this type of surgery. The average recovery time for traditional heart valve surgeries is six to eight weeks. Minimally invasive heart surgery recovery, in contrast, often occurs in as few as 10 days.
In addition to the benefits above, surgical scars are smaller and less noticeable with minimally invasive surgery. The surgery is actually known as keyhole heart surgery because surgeons make small, keyhole-like incisions to reach the heart. The downsides of minimally invasive procedures are that they tend to be more difficult to perform technically and may increase the risk of complications.
With valve regurgitation surgery, repair is usually the preferred option, as it offers advantages such as increased durability and freedom from lifelong drugs. In some cases, though, repair is not possible and/or valve replacement is appropriate. That is, the problem valve must be replaced with an artificial valve. Fortunately, the leaky heart valve surgery success rate is high with both options.
What else should you know about leaky heart valves?
While the survival rate is generally high with heart valve surgery, the timing of the surgery is significant. According to medical experts, people with leaky heart valves live longer when surgeons repair the regurgitation promptly. Nevertheless, every case is different and sometimes waiting may be beneficial. A cardiac specialist can help you to determine when surgery might benefit you most.
Many people with regurgitation want to know how to fix a leaky heart valve without surgery. While this is not possible, leaky heart valve treatment without surgery is. How is a leaky heart valve treated? Doctors can perform the MitraClip procedure on mitral/tricuspid valves. This is useful for improving the leaking heart valve prognosis in elderly patients and those who have been denied surgery.
Medications like beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, and vasodilators can help with the management of mild regurgitation. Many individuals with a leaking heart valve respond well to these prescription drugs, which aid in controlling troubling symptoms and preventing complications. Digoxin, anticoagulants, antiarrhythmics, and diuretics are also commonly prescribed for valve regurgitation.
Drugs and surgical procedures aside, following a diet low in salt, fat, and sugar has been shown to be helpful with regurgitation. Limiting these foods/ingredients is beneficial for men and women with leaking valves because it promotes healthy circulatory function, among other things. Is a leaky heart valve serious? Not always. But when it is, most people have treatment options.