Heart Valve Disease | Symptoms & Causes | MedStar Health

Providing unmatched care for patients with heart valve disease

Heart valve disease occurs when at least one of your heart’s valves doesn’t open or close properly, disrupting blood flow. Our structural heart and valvular disease experts offer patients access to the most advanced treatments, including the latest minimally invasive procedures, surgeries, and medical therapies.

We were one of the country’s first five clinical trial sites to evaluate the minimally invasive approach known as a transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), and we have taken part in every major clinical trial of the procedure ever since.

Depending on the severity of your disease, your doctor may recommend surgery to repair or replace the valves of the heart. Our Cardiac Surgery Program has some of the nation’s best outcomes for heart surgery, and we perform more heart surgeries than nearly any other program in the mid-Atlantic region.

Each day, cardiologists, interventional cardiologists, cardiac surgeons, and imaging specialists meet as a team to discuss the cases of patients who have been screened for a structural heart problem. Working together, they identify the best care and treatment options for each patient. Our heart valve disease treatment options are available in the Washington D.C., Baltimore, and Maryland areas.

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Types of heart valve disease

Each of the heart’s four valves can be affected by heart valve disease. This disease can cause a deformity in the valve structure or can cause the affected valve to leak, narrow, or function improperly. The four main types of heart valve disease are:

Heart valve disease symptoms

When a heart valve doesn’t work like it should, your heart has to beat harder to make up the difference. You may not notice any symptoms, or your symptoms may be severe. Symptoms of heart valve disease can include:

Talk to your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms.

Heart valve problems & risks

Heart valve disease may be a congenital heart disease a condition that’s present at birth. If you develop the disease later in life, we call that 'acquired heart valve disease'.

Several factors can increase your risk for acquired heart valve disease, such as:

Tests used to diagnose disease of the heart valves

Diagnosing heart valve disease is the first step to developing a treatment plan. Our specialists may recommend one or more diagnostic and imaging procedures.

Cardiac catheterization

Cardiac catheterization is a minimally invasive way to diagnose and treat a variety of heart and vascular conditions by guiding thin, flexible tubes called catheters through blood vessels to problem areas.

Chest x-ray

Chest X-rays use a small dose of radiation to create pictures of the structures inside the chest, including the lungs, heart, and chest wall.

Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan

The cardiac computed tomography scan, or cardiac CT, uses X-rays to create three-dimensional images of your heart and blood vessels.


An echocardiogram uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of your heart.

Electrocardiogram (ECG)

An electrocardiogram, also known as an ECG, measures the heart’s electrical activity.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Magnetic resonance imaging, better known as cardiac MRI, is a combination of radio waves, magnets, and computer technology to create images of your heart and blood vessels.

Stress tests

Stress tests are used to assess how your heart works during physical activity. There are several types of stress tests, including treadmill or bike stress tests, nuclear stress tests, stress echocardiograms, and chemically induced stress tests.


Lifestyle changes, medications, and regular checkups may be enough to manage mild heart valve disease. If your disease is severe, you may need surgery to repair or replace the faulty heart valve.

Valve disease treatments

Valve disease treatments include monitoring, medication, or surgery to repair or replace a damaged valve.

Valve sparing or valve preserving surgery (reimplantation surgery)

Valve sparing surgery is a procedure to repair an aortic root aneurysm without replacing the aortic valve.

Ask MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute

Have general questions for our heart and vascular program? Email us at AskMHVI@medstar.net. If you have clinically-specific questions, please contact your physician’s office.