Symptoms We Treat

Aortic Valve Stenosis

The opening between the left ventricle of the heart and the aorta is the aortic valve. The valve normally prevents blood from flowing back into the heart while allowing blood to flow freely away from the heart. If the valve opening is narrowed for any reason, aortic valve stenosis will result, causing the heart to work harder and the walls of the ventricle to become thicker.

The causes of aortic valve stenosis include a congenital birth defect, rheumatic fever, and calcium deposits on the aortic valve; the latter two only affect adults and have become rare due to modern medicine. Other risk factors include old age, chest radiation therapy, high cholesterol and gender.

The most important and prevalent symptoms of aortic valve stenosis are syncope, angina, and dyspnea, also known as S.A.D. If the symptoms are fairly obvious, the stenosis may have progressed to a dangerous level. The majority of aortic valve stenosis diagnoses are made during routine heart examinations, when the patient is asymptomatic. Doctors can identify the problem through variations in the sound of heartbeats and heart murmurs. Doctors may administer diagnostic tests, including echocardiogram, electrocardiogram, magnetic resonance imaging, and a chest X-ray to confirm the diagnosis.

If symptoms are not present, regular medical examinations are generally recommended so a cardiologist can monitor the heart effectively. The goal is to prevent any future complications by living a healthy lifestyle. If symptoms do present themselves, surgical correction is necessary, even if the symptoms are not severe.

Aortic Regurgitation

Aortic regurgitation, also known as aortic insufficiency, occurs when the aortic valve does not close tightly, causing blood to leak back into the left ventricle of the heart. The aortic valve connects the heart to the aorta and helps blood flow through the body. The abnormal functioning of the valve can occur suddenly or gradually, leading to heart palpitations, endocarditis or heart failure.

Treatment of Aortic Regurgitation

Treatment of aortic regurgitation depends on the severity of the condition. Patients that do not experience any symptoms may only need to monitor their condition through regular examinations. Once symptoms appear, surgery is usually required for the treatment of aortic regurgitation. Surgery is used to repair or replace the aortic valve and is usually performed as an open heart procedure. Most people experience successful results from surgery.

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Heart Arrhythmia

An arrhythmia is an irregular or abnormal heartbeat. A heart arrhythmia may occur when the electrical impulses that control the beating of the heart don’t work properly, causing the heart to beat too slow, too rapidly, or irregularly. While most arrhythmias are harmless, they may be an indication of a serious underlying condition, such as heart disease or a lack of blood flow to the heart. Heart arrhythmias are not uncommon and may be congenital or caused by various factors.

Types of Heart Arrhythmia

There are different types of arrhythmias, which are classified by the speed of heart rate and the area of the heart that they originate. Types of arrhythmia include:

  • Bradycardia, a slow heart rhythm
  • Tachycardia, a fast heart rhythm
  • Supraventricular, occurring in the atria
  • Ventricular, occurring in the ventricles

Atrial fibrillation is another common type of arrhythmia and one of the most serious forms. It is classified by a very fast heartbeat that is caused by chaotic electrical impulses in the atria of the heart. Atrial fibrillation may lead to stroke or heart failure as a result of blood clots that block the blood flow to the brain or heart.

Treatment of a Heart Arrhythmia

Treatment for a heart arrhythmia varies depending on the severity and underlying cause of the arrhythmia. Mild heart arrhythmias may require no treatment at all. A bradycardia, or slow heart beat, may be treated with a pacemaker to stimulate the heart to beat at a steady rate. A pacemaker is a small device, implanted under the skin near the collarbone, that sends out electrical impulses through the blood vessels to the heart. Other treatments for heart arrhythmia include:

  • Medication
  • Catheter ablation
  • Cardioversion
  • Implantable cardioverter defibrillator

In some cases, surgery may be performed to treat arrhythmia, often for cases caused by heart disease. Coronary artery bypass surgery may be performed to improve blood supply to the heart, while valve repair surgery may correct an arrhythmia as well.

Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia

ARVD or ARVC is a rare genetic disease in which one of the four chambers of the heart muscle called the right ventricle is infiltrated/replaced by fat and/or fibrous tissue in-between normal heart muscle tissues. The right ventricle can become dilated and contract poorly. As a result people may faint. The diagnosis is usually confirmed by cardiac MRI, and the treatment is usually a defibrillator.

Atrial Fibrillation (Afib)

Atrial fibrillation is an irregular or too-rapid beating (contraction) of the heart’s upper chambers (atria) that affects the movement of blood into the heart’s lower chambers (ventricles). It can lead to stroke or heart failure. When the movement of blood is irregular, blood may pool and form a clot; if a clot breaks off and travels to an artery leading to the brain, stroke can result. When the heart is incapable of pumping the amount of blood required to meet the body’s needs, heart failure can result. Atrial fibrillation affects more than 2.7 million people in the United States, and often requires medical intervention.

Types of Atrial Fibrillation

Types of atrial fibrillation are based on how long the atrial fibrillation lasts. With paroxysmal fibrillation, the heart regains normal rhythm without treatment within 7 days of when the arrhythmia began. With persistent atrial fibrillation, the irregular rhythm lasts longer than 7 days and does not correct itself. Treatment, however, can restore the normal rhythm. With permanent atrial fibrillation, the irregular rhythm lasts indefinitely, even with treatment.

Treatment for Atrial Fibrillation

Treatment for atrial fibrillation focuses on restoring a normal heart rate or controlling the heart rate to keep it from beating too fast. Stroke prevention is also a major goal of treatment. The type of treatment depends on the severity of the condition, but can include the following:

  • Electrical cardioversion to reset heart rate
  • Blood-thinning medications
  • Anti-arrhythmic drugs
  • Atrioventricular node ablation
  • Catheter ablation
  • Atrial pacemaker

If atrial fibrillation is caused by an underlying condition, treating that condition may be sufficient to restore normal heart rhythm.

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