What is valvular heart disease?

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Valvular heart disease is a group of diseases affecting the heart valves. The heart valves have to open and close during the cardiac cycle. Valvular heart disease occurs when one or more heart valves do not open (stenosis) or close (insufficiency/regurgitation) correctly. The most frequent cause of valvular disease is valve degeneration. 

Types of valvular heart disease

The four valves of the heart are the aortic, mitral, tricuspid, and pulmonary valves. Each of these valves is made up of flaps (cusps) that open and close with each heartbeat. Normal valves have three flaps (cusps), although the mitral valve only has two.

Valvular heart diseases are classified into two types:

Válvula que no se cierra, valvulopatía por estenosis

Valvular regurgitation. The cusps of the valves do not close properly and cause the blood to flow against the normal flow (regurgitation).

heart, Valvular stenosis

Estenosi valvular. Els vels es tornen rígids o gruixuts i estrenyen l'orifici per on la sang circula dins de la vàlvula.

There may be a combination of stenosis and regurgitation. For this reason, valvular heart diseases include: aortic stenosis (or insufficiency); mitral stenosis (or insufficiency); pulmonary stenosis (or insufficiency); and tricuspid stenosis (or insufficiency).

In addition to stenosis and regurgitation, there is a congenital disease called valvular atresia. In this disease, the valve does not form and there is a block of tissue that prevents blood circulating between the chambers of the heart.  

How many people does valvular heart disease affect?

It is estimated that approximately 4% of people over the age of 70 have some degree of aortic stenosis (the heart valves do not open).

The most common valvular heart disease after aortic stenosis is mitral regurgitation. About 1.6% of the general population has at least moderate mitral insufficiency. This percentage increases progressively with age.

Tricuspid regurgitation, aortic regurgitation, and mitral stenosis are less frequent, only being found in 0.8%, 0.5% and 0.1% of the population, respectively.

Substantiated information by:

Ander Regueiro Cueva
Bárbara Vidal Hagemeijer
Cesar Bernadó
Daniel Pereda

Published: 23 January 2020
Updated: 23 January 2020

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