Heart and Vascular Health

Structural Heart Doctors for Heart Valve Care

At Seton Heart Institute, the Valve Clinic surgeons provide advanced heart care solutions, including transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR).

Heart Valve Clinic

The Valve Clinic at the Seton Heart Institute provides a multi-specialty team approach to valve procedures. Our doctors listen to understand your health concerns and take the time you need to discuss your options:

  • Open sternotomy
  • Aortic valve commissurotomy

A patient with heart valve disease may also have other heart-lung problems. At the Seton Heart Institute, we have cardiovascular specialists, and together we provide comprehensive case reviews, so you get the care that is right for you. Ascension Seton Medical Center Austin is the site for all structural heart and valve replacement or repair procedures.

To learn more, please contact Norma Richtsmeier, Valve Clinic Coordinator, at 512-324-9999, Ext. 18156.

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Helping to Prevent and Care for Heart Valve Disease

Our heart care team specializes in all types of valve disease -- congenital heart disease when the valves developed incorrectly before birth and acquired heart valve damage.

For acquired valve disease, problems occur with valves that were once normal. Heart valve disease may develop over time due to a variety of illnesses or infections:

  • Inflammation of the inner heart layer (endocarditis)
  • Rheumatic fever
  • Strep throat, when left untreated
  • Other cardiovascular diseases

When you have an infection, we encourage patients to complete your antibiotic therapy, learn how to prevent heart disease, and ask about health screenings that are right for you, including the Healthy Heart CT Scan. Making lifestyle changes for better heart health may help prevent heart valve disease from developing or worsening. A healthy, low-cholesterol diet, regular physical activity, and abstaining from smoking are part of a heart-healthy.

Other causes of valve disease include:

  • Aortic aneurysms
  • Cardiomyopathy (heart muscle disease)
  • Connective tissue disease
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Heart attack
  • High blood pressure
  • Mitral valve prolapse (mitral valve does not close properly)
  • Syphilis (a sexually transmitted disease)

Less common causes of valve disease include tumors and some types of medications, chemotherapy, and radiation.

Responding Quickly to Heart Valve Symptoms

Symptoms of heart valve disease do not always indicate the seriousness of a patient's condition. If you have severe heart valve disease and experience life-threatening cardiac event, go to the ER and call 911. The Structural Heart care team at Seton Heart Institute in Austin is on call for heart emergency care. Our doctors deliver prompt diagnostic cardiac testing and care.

Symptoms of heart valve disease may include:

  • Heart palpitations or irregular heartbeat
  • Pressure in the chest
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid weight gain (possibly of two or three pounds in one day)
  • Swelling of the ankles, feet or abdomen (edema)
  • Weakness or dizziness

A range of cardiac diagnostic tests can help detect heart valve disease:

  • Chest X-ray: Shows any change in the heart’s shape and possible calcium deposits on the valves.
  • CT Scan: Creates a cross-sectional or 3D image of the heart. This test helps a doctor carefully examine valve anatomy.
  • Stress Test with Echo or Angiogram: Determines how well your heart functions while you walk on a treadmill or after taking medication to increase your heart rate. Your elevated heart rate is measured to indicate valve problems.
  • Echocardiogram: Uses sound waves to study the pumping action of your heart and evaluate how well your blood is flowing and if valve function is affected.
  • CT Angiogram: Uses X-rays to show an image of the heart and blood vessels to help your doctor locate valve problems.

Non-surgical Care and Minimally Invasive Procedures

Effective treatment depends on which valve is damaged and what the issue is. Protecting the heart from further damage is always an important consideration.

Oral medication can be used to manage symptoms of heart valve disease and prevent further damage. Common medications include:

  • ACE inhibitors to relax blood vessels
  • Diuretics to reduce blood volume
  • Beta-blockers to open blood vessels and help blood beat less forcefully
  • Antiarrhythmic medication to stabilize the heart
  • Blood thinners or anticoagulants to prevent the blood clots
  • Vasodilators to open blood vessels

Surgery is sometimes necessary to restore heart function and improve quality of life by repairing or replacing the heart valve. At Seton Heart Institute, our cardiac surgeons excel at performing life-saving open surgery and minimally invasive heart procedures, including transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR).

The TAVR procedure is an innovative and effective procedure for heart patients with critical aortic stenosis. TAVR is a minimally invasive procedure. The new valve is implanted through a small incision in the groin using a catheter guided to the heart through the circulatory system. The average hospital and overall recovery are much shorter than an open surgery - one to two weeks versus six to eight weeks with the traditional sternotomy.

The benefits of the TAVR procedures include:

  • Life-saving option for high-risk patients
  • Minimally invasive treatment
  • No need for cardiopulmonary bypass or stopping the heart
  • Shorter recovery time and hospital stay
  • Significantly less pain than open heart surgery

Mitral Valve Repair

The Valve Clinic provides minimally invasive mitral valve repair for patients with mitral regurgitation. Our heart surgeons are highly experienced and perform nearly all mitral valve repairs through a 2- to 3-inch incision in the chest.

Compared to mitral valve replacement, mitral valve repair provides many advantages including a higher, long-term survival rate, better preservation of heart functions, lower risk of complications and usually eliminates the need for long-term use of anticoagulants.

The structural heart sub-specialists also perform percutaneous valve repair procedures, aortic valve repair, open sternotomy, and other minimally invasive valve heart procedures.

Customizing Your Aftercare

Your recovery time after heart valve surgery varies based on your care plan. Your doctor may refer you to cardiac rehabilitation to continue building your strength and endurance. Ascension Seton has five cardiac rehab locations in the greater Austin area.

During this time, patients will gradually regain energy and resume normal activities. After successful valve repair or replacement surgery, many patients can discontinue their medication therapy. Regular follow-ups with a heart care specialist are necessary to ensure continued heart health. Weight control, proper nutrition, and an active lifestyle help support good heart health. Seton Heart Institute provides many services and resources for your long-term heart care needs.

To learn more, please contact Norma Richtsmeier, Valve Clinic Coordinator, at 512-324-9999, Ext. 18156.

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