Within the heart’s chamber are four primary heart valves: aortic; mitral; tricuspid; and the pulmonary valve. Each is critical for proper blood flow throughout the heart, all acting as one-way valves, letting blood flow from one chamber to another, or allowing blood to flow out of the heart in only one direction. Pressure differences and some heart muscles control the opening and closing of the valves.
Damage to the valves is typically from calcium build-up but may be genetic. The valve damage forces the heart to pump harder than normal even at rest. For example, aortic valve stenosis (narrowing) tends to progress quickly and if left untreated will weaken the heart and lead to more serious problems. Novel minimally invasive procedures are significantly changing the spectrum of heart valve repair and replacement. St. Vincent Heart Center cardiothoracic surgeons and interventional cardiologists are leading the way.
It’s all about blood flow in and out of the heart and onto other vital organs in the body. If the heart valves are not opening and closing properly it’s like a flood or drought – damage will be done.
St. Vincent Heart Center cardiothoracic surgeons and interventional cardiologists are raising the bar in quality of care standards and next generation techniques for heart valve patients. Our performance standards exceed national standards. We treat more heart valve cases than any other heart care center in the Midwest. Internationally, our cardiologists are invited to speak at numerous medical meetings, recognized for their expertise and innovations in minimally invasive procedures.
Nationally, we are known for pioneering transformative procedures. (For more information see the 2014 Promise and Performance Report entitled “No Boundaries”).
For example, the St. Vincent heart valve team has been doing mitral valve surgery since 1973. Our experience is very deep. Today, minimally invasive mitral valve procedures are the standard of care at St. Vincent Heart Center.
Not every patient is a candidate for a minimally invasive procedure, but what you get at St. Vincent Heart Center is a team approach -- thorough and forward looking – taking into account your personal quality of life goals. It’s not enough to fix the heart function. We are also concerned about total health and well-being. That’s our Caring Spirit.
When you arrive at the St. Vincent Heart Center for your first heart valve evaluation and appointment you will meet many members of our team (cardiologist, cardiothoracic surgeon, heart valve physician assistants, nurse practitioners and nurse educators, and specialty technicians). Diagnosing a heart valve condition involves different diagnostic tests and consultations with several specialists. Each is on the Heart Valve Team for a reason and contributes to a personalized treatment plan. Your day at the Heart Center will be a full one with many steps: