Can Enlarged Heart Valves Put Me at Risk?

Tuesday, 20 Aug 2013 09:40 AM

By Peter Hibberd, M.D.

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Question: I had a brain aneurysm in 2010 and had a stent and coil put in. But during the procedure the doctors discovered that my valves in my heart are almost double the normal size. Is this very dangerous? I am only 33 and have two small children (and would like to have a third).

Dr. Hibberd’s answer:
 
You will need to discuss the significance of your findings with your physician who has access to your full medical report. Heart valves serve as checkpoints within the heart muscle to prevent backflow of blood during the synchronized contraction of your heart, and as a result of this your heart is able to propel blood in a forward direction.
 
Without heart valves, the heart would not be able to generate an effective pumping pressure. Sometimes heart valves enlarge because of genetic factors and sometimes as a result of inflammation or disease. In any event, as long as the valve is functioning — properly opening and closing — there are not usually any treatments recommended.
 
It is highly likely that the findings you were told about were not immediately life threatening, but for your own information so that further evaluation of all your valves could be arranged through an echocardiogram. During an echocardiogram, there is no discomfort and the ultrasound study can be conducted without any needles or dye. The ultrasound evaluation may be done using an ultrasound probe over your upper abdomen and chest wall, and the valves of all four heart chambers can be identified and visualized for normal size and function.
 
I would encourage you to have your personal physician arrange for your echocardiogram. This is usually done at the hospital or at your cardiologist's office. It sounds as if a cardiology consultation may be advisable regardless, so this "large valve" situation can be further clarified for you. Be sure to ask whether problems or precautions with future pregnancies can be anticipated, as during pregnancy your blood volume is considerably increased, your heart has to work harder, putting more pressure on your heart valves.



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