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Other factors affecting surgery

Is it possible to treat valve diseases with medications alone?

Most valve conditions can't be treated with medication alone. However, sometimes the problem is not severe enough to require surgical repair, but it is bothersome enough to cause symptoms or risks. In cases like these, a condition might be effectively managed for a while with medication.

In some cases, medications may be prescribed for patients with valvular disease to:

1. Reduce unpleasant symptoms that accompany milder forms of the disorder.

2. Maintain heart rhythm if a related arrhythmia is present.

3. Reduce calcification in and around coronary arteries.

4. Lower the patient’s risk for clotting and stroke.

Valve dysfunction is a progressive disease, and among those who receive no treatment, the outlook can be poor. Many who do receive treatment go on to live very full and healthy lives, especially when their cardiovascular risks are otherwise low. For some patients, the procedure gives them over 15 years longer lifespan.

What happens if I don't treat my condition or choose to ignore the recommended procedures?

Heart valve disease should not be ignored. Valve repair and replacement can be very effective and evidence shows that, with proper treatment, most people enjoy a return to good health and add many years to their life. If you ignore a recommended procedure, there is a risk of heart failure, which may be fatal.

When should surgery be considered over medications for valve replacement or repair?

Medications cannot always protect the heart and the diseased valve may continue to damage the heart. Further actions may be needed. Your healthcare team can help you understand and evaluate options for heart valve repair or valve replacement surgery. Highly effective procedures are available for treating heart valve conditions. Not only are they treatable, but curable. Some people find that medications are no longer needed within a few weeks after surgery.

Below are some of the types of medications that heart valve patients may be prescribed.

Medication ClassPurpose for a Valve Disease Patient
Ace inhibitorsThese are vasodilator, which means it opens blood vessels more fully and can help reduce high blood pressure and slow heart failure.
Anti-arrhythmic medicationsThese help to restore, or maintain, a normal rhythm to the heart beat.
AntibioticsThese help to prevent the onset of infections post-treatment.
AnticoagulantsThese are ‘blood thinners’. They reduces the risk of developing blood clots from poorly circulating blood around faulty heart valves. Blood clots are dangerous because they could lead to a stroke. They are often prescribed to patients who have had a mechanical valve fitted.
Beta-blockersThese can reduce the heart's workload as the help the heart beat slower. Some patients find them helpful for reducing palpitations, and controlling heart rate.
Diuretics

These are also known as ‘water pills’. They reduce the amount of fluid in the tissues and bloodstream which can lessen the workload on the heart.
VasodilatorsAs for the ace inhibitors, these can lower the heart's workload by opening and relaxing the blood vessels; reduced pressure may encourage blood to flow in a forward direction, rather than being forced backward through a leaky valve.
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