Structural Heart Disease

John Gurley, MD, talks with Jennifer Vissing, RN, BSN.
John Gurley, MD, talks with Jennifer Vissing, RN, BSN.

Structural heart disease occurs when there is a defect in the heart’s wall, chambers or valves. A person may be born with a heart defect or develop one as they get older. These defects can affect blood flow to the heart, which can cause major complications such as stroke, heart failure or sudden cardiac arrest.

Patients with structural heart disease may experience various symptoms, such as migraines, heart palpitations or irregular heartbeats, shortness of breath or difficulty exercising, chest pain or tightening, high blood pressure, and fatigue.

Our Structural Heart Program team is experienced in diagnosing and treating all types of structural heart disease that form after birth, including:

  • Aortic Stenosis (AS), which occurs when there is a narrowing in the opening of the aortic heart valve. This condition forces the heart to work harder and can disrupt the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the body, putting patients at risk for life-threatening issues.
  • Atrial Septal Defect, an opening in the wall between the upper chambers of the heart.
  • Heart Valve Disease, which occurs when something is wrong with one of the valves and the blood cannot flow in and out of the heart properly. 
  • Mitral Valve Regurgitation, which occurs when the mitral valve of the heart doesn't close tightly enough, allowing blood to flow backward into the heart. This condition can keep blood from efficiently moving through the heart and to the rest of the body and can cause fatigue and shortness of breath.
  • Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO), which is a hole between the wall of the upper two chambers of the heart that didn’t close up after birth as it typically does. Although it doesn’t usually cause any symptoms, a PFO allows blood to leak from one chamber to the other and can become a problem if a blood clot forms. This defect occurs in more than one-quarter of Americans. Our team also treats atrial and ventricular septal defects that occur in the heart’s upper and lower chambers, respectively.

We can also help reduce the risk of stroke in patients with nonvalvular atrial fibrillation (AFib) who cannot take blood thinners, as well as other heart valve issues. Our Adult Congenital Heart Disease group at UK specializes in treating structural heart disease that patients are born with.

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