Heart Valve Disease

Heart valve problems occur when one or more of the valves in your heart isn’t pumping blood to the rest of your body properly. A variety of conditions can be the cause, but often heart valve disease is hereditary. Some patients may not experience any symptoms until the condition is severe. If this condition runs in your family or you are experiencing symptoms, such as chest pain or shortness of breath, see your doctor for a diagnosis. Treatment will vary depending on your condition and may include surgery to repair or replace the faulty valve. 

What is heart valve disease?

Heart valves open and close with each heartbeat to keep blood flowing into and out of the heart’s four chambers. There are four heart valves that keep blood flowing:

  • Aortic heart valve
  • Mitral valve
  • Tricuspid valve
  • Pulmonary valve

If you have heart valve disease, one or more of the valves isn’t working properly. This condition affects blood flow and can lead to heart failure and other serious problems. The heart specialists at the Allegheny Health Network (AHN) Cardiovascular Institute are nationally renowned for treating all types of heart valve problems. We’re experts at minimally invasive surgeries for patients who can’t undergo open-heart procedures.

Types of heart valve disease

The different types of heart valve disease include:

Symptoms of heart valve problems

Some people with heart valve disease may not experience any symptoms or they may develop them slowly over time. Others may suddenly experience symptoms if the condition is severe.

Physical heart valve disease symptoms can include:

  • Swollen body parts, such as the ankles, feet, or abdomen.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Chest pain palpitations.
  • Feeling lightheaded or fainting. 

Heart valve disease causes

Heart valve disease can be hereditary and present at birth. However, heart valve issues can be caused by other conditions or infections.

Risk factors that may cause heart valve disease are:

  • Endocarditis, or heart valve infections caused by bacteria.
  • History of heart disease or heart attack.
  • High blood pressure or high cholesterol.
  • Diabetes.
  • Advanced age. 

Heart valve disease diagnosis

To make a heart valve disease diagnosis, your doctor will need to conduct a physical examination and run several tests which may include:

Chest X-ray

This will help your doctor see if your heart is enlarged and help identify what type of heart valve disease is present, if any.

Cardiac MRI

This test creates detailed images of your heart and can help determine the severity of your condition.


This test is used to measure electrical impulses from your heart and can help detect heart disease.

Exercise tests

Different exercise tests can help monitor your heart's response to physical activity.


This test produces video images of your heart in motion to assess the structure of the heart, the heart valves, and blood flow.

Heart valve disease treatment

At one of the country’s leading heart valve disease programs, you benefit from:

Minimally invasive procedures

We offer a complete suite of minimally invasive heart surgeries, including robotic heart surgery. We are a national leader in transcatheter aortic valve replacements (TAVR), performing a large volume every year. Learn more about TAVR.

Advanced treatments

Our doctors specialize in minimally invasive procedures to repair or replace diseased heart valves. In addition to TAVR, we also offer MitraClip™. Learn more about heart valve surgery.

Patient-focused care

Your customized treatment plan takes into consideration your specific condition, symptoms, and needs. We value your input into your care.

Dedicated team of experts

We tap the expertise of various heart specialists to ensure that you receive an all-encompassing care plan that optimizes your results. Our team works with your referring physician to ensure that you receive seamless care that’s convenient for you.

Maintaining heart valve health

If you have heart valve disease, you should have regular checkups with your doctor to help monitor your condition. It's also a good idea to practice good habits to maintain heart valve health, such as:

  • Eating a healthy diet.
  • Getting regular exercise.
  • Avoiding smoking or tobacco products.
  • Practicing good hygiene to prevent heart valve infection.
  • Managing your stress.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight. 

Contact us

Call (412) DOCTORS (412) 362-8677 or request an appointment to see an AHN cardiologist.

MitraClip™ is a trademark of Abbott and is used with permission