“Can A Patient With Three Leaking Heart Valves Still Have A Healthy Heart?” Asks Janelle
By Adam Pick on December 12, 2011
As a double heart valve surgery patient, I found Janelle’s recent question very interesting.
She wrote, “Hi Adam – Almost everything I read on the internet deals with a singular leaking heart valve. At age 64, I was just diagnosed with three valves that are leaking: the aortic valve, the mitral valve and tricuspid valve. I have shortness of breath and I am also lightheaded at times. I am curious to know, what are the chances that someone with three leaking valves can still have a healthy heart?”
To get an expert opinion for Janelle, I recently discussed this topic with Doctor Patrick McCarthy, the Chief of Cardiac Surgery at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. Here are the highlights from our discussion.
Thanks to Janelle for her question and a special thanks to Dr. Patrick McCarthy for taking the time to share his clinical experience with us during our valve clinic tour of Northwestern.
For those patients and caregivers in our community who are hearing impaired, I have provided a written transcript of this video interview below.
Keep on tickin!
P.S. Here is a written transcript of the video.
Adam: Hi, we are coming to you from Dr. Patrick McCarthy’s office at The Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute in Northwestern Memorial Hospital. We’ve been answering your questions that came in at Heart Valve Blog.com and we have a fantastic question for Dr. McCarthy from Janelle.
She writes: Adam, Almost everything I read on the internet deals with a singular leaky heart valve. At age 64, I was just diagnosed with three valves that are leaking: the aortic valve, the mitral valve and tricuspid valve. I have shortness of breath and I am also lightheaded at times. I am curious to know, what are the chances that someone with three leaking valves can still have a healthy heart? (To learn more about leaking heart valves, click here.)
Dr. Patrick M. McCarthy: So Janelle asks a very good question. In the days when Rheumatic fever was much more common, we would see many patients that had multiple valves involved and three valve surgery is still not that uncommon. We don’t write as much about it these days. And she is right, it’s sort of under-reported. But it’s still about 10% of what we do, are patients that have three valves or so. The big issue is when to operate because often times, like Janelle, patients develop symptoms but each individual valve may not be quite so severe that it would warrant surgery in and of itself. But, when you combine all three valves leaking or acting up somehow, then the patients may end up with symptoms and need surgery a little sooner than they may have otherwise with a single valve problem.
Patrick McCarthy, MD: So it is an interesting question and Adam thanks for bringing this up to the attention of the patients. I am sure they are really learning a lot from this and we appreciate having you visit us here at Northwestern and the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute.
Adam: Dr. McCarthy on behalf of all of the patients and the caregivers in our community, I just want to thank you for taking the time to speak with us today and continuing all of the great clinical work that you are doing with your patients. I know a lot of the members of our community have been to you for surgery and have had fantastic results and on behalf of all of us again, I just want to thank you.