Caregiver's Home Companion Caring for someone who has trouble hearing the phone?
 SEARCH Go
Read Fred's Previous Articles

April 6, 2012
Question for Aging Men: Will Testosterone Spark Virility?


March 30, 2012
Is Dad Still Road-Worthy – Or Is It Time to Take the Keys?


March 23, 2012
Coping and Recovering from Knee Replacement


March 16, 2012
Lactose Intolerance May Not Spell Osteoporosis


Take Our PollThe Caregiver's Marketplace

Shop Now in the
Caregiver's e-Mall

Our Caregiver's e-Mall is filling up with great stores and a growing number of items just in time for the holidays. Whether you browse and find a book or tape to help you with caregiving, or come across a wonderful gift for a friend or family member, the e-Mall can be your source for easy shopping and gift-giving.

So, click on the dark blue Caregiver's e-Mall buttons throughout our site and enter a comfortable, secure shopping experience with major merchants while avoiding the hassle of having to find a parking place or matching your shopping hours with someone else's. Our mall is just a click away and is open 24 hours every day.

Watch for additional stores opening in the e-Mall soon!

Posted: June 17, 2011

Keeping Seniors Healthy

Complications Arise from Leaky Heart Valves

Q. My father has a leaky heart valve that may need surgery down the road. I don’t know much about this. Can you tell me about heart-valve surgery in one of your columns?

A.  First, let’s explain briefly how the heart works.

There are four chambers in the heart -- two atria on top and two ventricles below. There are four valves that open and shut with every heartbeat to control the circulation of the blood. These valves, which are made of tissue flaps, are called the tricuspid, pulmonary, mitral and aortic.

Blood flows in one direction through the heart to get a new supply of oxygen from the lungs. Here’s how it goes:

Used blood comes back to the heart from the body and goes into the right atrium. The right atrium pumps the blood downward through the tricuspid valve into the right ventricle. The right ventricle pumps the blood through the pulmonary valve to the lungs. The oxygenated blood returns from the lungs to the left atrium. The left atrium moves the blood down through the mitral valve into the left ventricle. The left ventricle pumps the blood out the aortic valve, which supplies the body.

Valves can malfunction and strain the heart. If a valve doesn’t close properly, blood will flow backward. This is called “regurgitation.” If valve flaps don’t open correctly, they prevent blood from flowing through them. This is called “stenosis.”

Advanced valve disease can cause blood clots, stroke or sudden death from cardiac arrest.

For seniors, there is a problem with the flaps of the aortic and mitral valves; they thicken and harden with age, making blood flow more difficult. These changes may lead to complications in people with heart disease.

Other common causes of valve disease are: birth defects that produce irregularly shaped aortic valves or narrowed mitral valves; infective endocarditis, a bacterial infection of the lining of the heart's walls and valves; coronary artery disease, and heart attack.

People with malfunctioning valves who don’t have serious symptoms may not need treatment. Medicines can help with symptoms but don’t fix a bad valve. Surgery or a less invasive procedure is often needed to correct valve disease.

There is a percutaneous (through-the-skin) procedure that may be used to open narrowed tricuspid, pulmonary and mitral valves. In rare cases, it is used on aortic valves. A balloon-tipped catheter is inserted into the narrowed valve and inflated. The balloon makes the central area of the valve larger. The balloon is then deflated and removed.

During surgery, valves may either be repaired or replaced. Repair may involve opening a narrowed valve or reinforcing a valve that doesn't close properly. Surgeons replace irreparable valves with prosthetic valves.

Prosthetic valves can be mechanical; they are made of plastic, carbon, or metal. Or, these replacement valves can be composed of human or animal tissue. There is an increased risk of blood clots forming with a mechanical valve, so patients who get them have to take blood-thinning medicines as long as they have this kind of valve.

Valve surgery is an open-heart operation that requires a heart-lung bypass machine. During the operation, the heart must stop beating. The machine keeps the blood circulating in the patient’s body.


Fred Cicetti is a freelance writer who specializes in health. He has been writing professionally since 1963. Before he began freelancing, he was a reporter and columnist for three daily newspapers in New Jersey. He has written two published novels: Saltwater Taffy, and Local Angles. You can send your health-related questions to Fred at fred@healthygeezer.com.

© 2011 Pederson Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Commercial use, redistribution or other forms of reuse of this information is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Pederson Publishing.
Search CaregiversHome
Find with keyword(s):

Enter a keyword or phrase to search CaregiversHome's archives for related news topics, the latest news stories, timely times, and reference articles.

Email or share this story Bookmark and Share

Back to Top


Discount Prescription Card

Free Survival Guide

Privacy Statement Contact Us Site Map Products & Services Our Partners Advertise
© Copyright 2003-2019. Pederson Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved.