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Heart Valve Disease

At the Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Heart & Vascular Center, our experts are among the world’s leaders in treating valvular heart disease. We address all heart valve disease to extend your quality of life and life expectancy. 

Valvular Heart Disease: Why Choose Barnes-Jewish Hospital?

At our center, you receive precise, personalized diagnosis and care, with access to the latest techniques and devices to correct heart valve disease. You will find:

  • Experienced doctors and surgeons: Our team is the region’s most experienced in valve repair and replacement procedures. You can have confidence that we thoroughly evaluate and recommend the most appropriate treatment for you. Find a doctor.
  • Excellent results: U.S.News & World Report ranks us as high performing for transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) and aortic valve surgery. These rankings confirm that our patients’ results are significantly better than national averages. Read more about our heart valve treatment.
  • Advanced techniques: We have extensive experience in helping perfect new methods to correct valve problems. Since the early 2000s, we have participated in a large number of trials for new heart valve devices. Because we begin using new procedures before others learn them, you receive care from doctors who already have substantial experience with the latest advancements. Learn more about heart valve replacement and repair.
  • Collaborative care: Your care involves cardiologists and surgeons, sometimes including a referring doctor from outside our clinic. To plan your care, we talk with you and your family about each option, considering your lifestyle and goals. Your needs and desires are our focus. Read more about the heart surgery patient journey.
  • Modern, well-equipped facilities: Our doctors have access to the latest technology, with the capability to perform precise procedures. You receive surgery in high-tech rooms where integrated systems enable your doctors to see all your imaging in real time while they work. 

What Is Valvular Heart Disease?

Valvular heart disease describes problems with the way your heart valves control blood flow through your heart. Leaky heart valves can make you tired and breathless. In severe cases, heart valve disease can put your life at risk. Learn more about symptoms and diagnosis of valvular heart disease.

It’s common for heart valves not to work as they should. In some people, valves stiffen with age. Other people may be born with a valve problem. Valvular heart disease (or heart valve disease) refers to any problem with heart valve function.

Valvular heart disease most often affects your heart’s valves in one of two ways:

  • Valvular regurgitation (leaking heart valve): Valves do not close like they should. Blood regurgitates (flows backward), causing your heart to work too hard to push blood to your body.
  • Valve stenosis: Hardened valves don’t open all the way, eventually restricting heart function and blood flow to the body.

What Are the Heart Valves?

Your heart has four valves that control blood flow through the heart. Each valve has a set of flaps (called leaflets) that open and close fully when working properly. Sometimes, heart valves stiffen, leak or don’t work correctly.

The heart has four chambers (spaces) where blood collects before moving through the body. The two upper chambers are called atria, and the two lower chambers are called ventricles. 

Each ventricle has two valves. One valve lets blood into the ventricle, while another valve lets blood out. Each valve should let blood flow in only one direction. These valves are: 

  • aortic valve, the left ventricle’s outlet valve, which opens into the aorta (the body’s largest artery)
  • mitral valve, the inlet valve for the left ventricle, which takes in oxygenated blood from the lungs
  • pulmonary valve, the right ventricle’s outlet valve that sends blood to the lungs
  • tricuspid valve, the inlet valve in the right ventricle, which receives blood from the right atrium

What Causes Heart Valve Disease and Valve Stenosis?

Some people are born with abnormal heart valves. This condition is known as congenital heart disease. The most common congenital heart valve disease is a bicuspid aortic valve. This aortic valve has only two flaps instead of the typical three.

People may also develop heart valve disease as a result of:

Changes to the heart valves can restrict blood flow to the body or cause blood to flow in the wrong direction. Over time, heart valve disease can cause heart failure or lead to abnormal heart rhythms.

Our Valve Clinic Locations

We perform valve repair and replacement surgeries at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. We see many patients at the nearby Center for Advanced Medicine. We also have clinic visits available at Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital and Barnes-Jewish Center for Advanced Medicine – South County. See the Heart & Vascular Center locations.

At each location, you have access to our multidisciplinary clinic for evaluation and diagnosis. We try to do all testing in one location, on one day, for your convenience. 

Contact Us

To make an appointment with a Washington University heart valve specialist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, call 888-230-8832.