Valvulopathies: Learn all about these heart disorders

The heart is a muscle that constantly contracts and relaxes to fulfill its main function: to pump blood full of oxygen and nutrients throughout the human body. According to the Brazilian Society of Cardiology (SBC), it works as a “hydraulic pump”, in which the output tubes would be the arteries and the input tubes, the veins. This fundamental organ for the body is formed by four chambers, called atria (receive blood) and ventricles (pump blood from the heart to the circulatory system); The heart is not composed only of its musculature, but of a complex structure, with valves, papillary muscles and chordae tendineae.

Heart valves have the role of regulating blood flow between the chambers of the heart. Therefore, it is essential to include a consultation with the cardiologist in your annual check-up in order to protect the heart from heart diseases, such as valvulopathies, a set of conditions that affect the heart valves. Have you heard about them? Care for Life interviewed cardiologist Ana Catarina Medeiros, who helped clarify all doubts about these disorders. Follow!

Heart valves and aging: understand this relationship


The natural path of blood in the heart is from the atria to the ventricles. Heart valves act as a kind of door, being responsible for allowing the entry and exit of an adequate amount of blood to the needs and rhythm of the heart, and preventing the pumped blood from returning through the path already traveled. However, diseases that affect the valves and the body’s own aging can affect the functioning of these structures. “With age, some heart valves become thicker, calcified and less mobile, which can compromise blood flow within the organ,” explained Dr. Ana Catarina.

Understand the causes of malfunctioning heart valves


Heart valves may not work properly for two reasons: failure to close, which can cause reflux (“leakage”), and restricted opening, with partial restriction of blood flow through the valve – both conditions can affect the heart pumping blood. When the heart valves malfunction, it is possible to hear murmurs and other abnormal sounds through the stethoscope and the diagnosis of this problem can be complemented by an echocardiogram.

The cardiologist cites some reasons that cause changes in the heart valves:

  • congenital diseases;
  • rheumatic fever;
  • rheumatological diseases;
  • heart diseases that cause enlargement of the valve annulus;
  • valve infections.

Dr. Ana Catarina explains that we have four valves in the heart: aortic valve, pulmonary valve, tricuspid valve and mitral valve. There are pathologies that can affect each of the valves or more than one simultaneously:

  • aortic valve disease;
  • mitral valve disease;
  • tricuspid valve disease;
  • pulmonary valve disease.

Some of the main types of valvulopathies are:

  • Aortic stenosis: characterized by reduced valve opening, resulting in reduced blood flow from the left ventricle to the aorta.


  • Aortic insufficiency: Blood ejected into the aorta artery by the left ventricle returns through the aortic valve, which has incomplete closure. It occurs by deterioration of the valve and can, over time, cause heart failure.


  • Mitral valve prolapse: a disorder in which the mitral valve leaflets or their structure prolapse into the left atrium when the left ventricle contracts. In some cases, it can cause insufficiency and backflow of blood into the atrium.


According to the doctor, valvulopathies are very common: “They can be congenital or acquired throughout life and the main causes of disease in the valves are age-related degeneration (senile) and rheumatic fever”.

Symptoms of malfunctioning heart valves


  • Swelling in the legs;
  • swelling in the feet;
  • fatigue;
  • Chest pain;
  • shortness of breathe;
  • palpitations;
  • fainting.

Ways of treating valvulopathies


Use of medicines: the first medical solution to treat valvulopathies is the prescription of medication. Cardiologists usually indicate diuretics, anticoagulants and medications to improve cardiac performance.


– Repair (plastic) of the heart valve: a surgery in which the heart valve is resized by removing excess tissue. A ring around the valve opening is also added, leaflet tissue is repaired, along with the chordae tendineae, and calcium deposits are removed.


valve replacement: the damaged heart valve is replaced by an artificial valve (mechanical or tissue) or a prosthesis. Mechanical ones are usually made of titanium or carbon and tissue ones come from human or animal donors.

Mechanical or biological valve: when to use each one?

Mechanical valve: It has a long durability, that is, the patient can use it all his life without having to undergo another surgery. On the other hand, it is necessary to take anticoagulant medication forever. Doctors recommend this type of valve for younger patients.

Biological valve: “Biological valves are made from ox or pig pericardium (the membrane that covers the heart), have a shorter lifespan (from 10 to 20 years), but require less care”, clarifies Dr. Ana Catarina. This model is more suitable for elderly patients.


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