Heart Valve Repair Advancing At A Strong, Steady Beat

2011-05-04 | |
Last updated: 2014-11-25

HeartbeatThe life span and resiliency of the human heart is truly impressive. A human heart continues to function from before birth until the last minute of our lives without a break and without a backup to take over in the event of failure. As with all tissues in the human body, however, not all hearts will develop properly. At the same time, illness and aging can take their toll on the ability of the heart to operate correctly.

Because the heart is such a crucial organ for sustaining life, significant problems with the organ almost always require some form of medical intervention. Due to the complexity of the heart, it can suffer from many different problems that limit its effectiveness. Fortunately, medical science is making progress in treating heart issues. One particular component of heart treatment that is benefiting from advancements in medicine is the correction of heart valve defects.

The human heart is fundamentally a pump that serves to move blood to our lungs and to the cells of our body. Like many other pumps, the heart has valves that prevent the liquid being pumped from moving in the wrong direction. The human heart has four such valves. Within the heart, failures of one or more of these valves are a relatively common problem.

The Causes of Heart Valve Failure

Heart valves can fail to operate properly for numerous reasons. One such reason is as a result of birth defects. In the US alone, of the 4.1 million children born annually, 36,000 or just under 1 in 100 children will suffer from a heart defect. Among these children, 1 in 5 of the heart defects are associated with just one of the valves in the heart. These heart valve problems may be detected in early life or may only be discovered in adulthood.

A second cause of heart valve defects is as a result of disease. Among children, rheumatic fever is a rare condition that can cause scarring of the heart valves that can in turn prevent them from forming a good seal. In addition, medical conditions such as Lupus can result in inflammation of the heart valves that causes them to thicken and develop an irregular surface. Both problems can cause the valve to work less effectively thus requiring the heart to work harder to move the blood.

One last cause of such valve defects is as a result of age. Like our arteries, the heart valves can narrow with age causing less blood to flow through them and limiting the ability of the valves to close properly. According to research by the Karolinska Institutet, the more specific cause of this narrowing of the valves is because of long-term inflammation. Regardless of the cause, the result to patients is the need for the heart to work harder in pumping blood.

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Category: Disease Information, Medical Treatment

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