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Learn more about the UPMC Center for Heart Valve Disease.

UPMC Center for Heart Valve Disease

Your heart health affects other aspects of your body. Because of this, you may need to see more than one doctor.

The UPMC Center for Heart Valve Disease provides this complete care in one convenient place.

Our center combines nationally recognized experts across many specialties and the latest technology in one visit.

We've been part of the pivotal clinical trials in heart valve disease and bring that knowledge to you.

Contact the UPMC Center for Heart Valve Disease

To make an appointment with a UPMC heart valve doctor:

What Are Heart Valves?

The heart has four valves that handle blood flow. They make sure blood flows in the right direction through the heart and to the body.

  • Tricuspid valve. This valve is on the right side of your heart and separates the upper and lower chambers. It has three flaps (leaflets) that open to let blood flow from the right atrium to the right ventricle. They then close to prevent blood from flowing backward.
  • Pulmonary valve. This valve controls blood flow from the right ventricle to the pulmonary artery, which carries blood to the lungs. It opens when the heart muscle contracts, pushing blood into the artery and lungs.
  • Mitral valve. This valve is between the upper and lower chambers on the left side of the heart and has two flaps. It handles blood flow from the upper chamber into the lower chamber.
  • Aortic valve. This valve normally has three flaps and regulates blood from the left ventricle to the aorta. The aorta is the main artery that carries blood from the heart to the rest of your body.

What Is Heart Valve Disease?

Heart valve disease happens when one or more valves in the heart doesn't work right. This problem can emerge over time, or it can be a problem you're born with.

When a valve doesn't work, blood doesn't flow through your body as it should.

Two common ways a heart valve can fail are:

  • Stenosis. This happens when something blocks blood from flowing properly through the valves. A valve may narrow, the flaps may not open the right way, or a defect may block normal blood flow.
  • Regurgitation. This happens when the flaps on a heart valve don't close properly. Blood can then flow backward.

Types of Heart Valve Disease

Aortic valve disease

Mitral valve disease

Tricuspid valve disease

Causes of Heart Valve Disease

Aging is one of the main causes of heart valve disease.

Some people are born with defects in a heart valve, such as two flaps instead of three. This can later cause the valve to stop working like it should.

Other causes of heart valve disease include prior infections or problems with blood flow to the heart muscle.

Heart Valve Disease Risk Factors and Complications

Some people may be more at risk of heart valve disease.

The following factors increase your risk:

  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • AFib
  • Age

How to Prevent Heart Valve Disease

The best way to prevent heart valve disease is to make changes to lower your risk factors, such as:

  • Stay active.
  • Eat a heart healthy diet.
  • Avoid or quit smoking.

You should also see your doctor to help you manage chronic conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes.

Why Choose the UPMC Center for Heart Valve Disease?

Our center aims to provide you with world-class experts, diagnostics, and treatment in one convenient location.

We regularly research heart valve disease. This means you have access to technology or treatments other centers don't have.

The UPMC Center for Heart Valve Disease participates in a number of clinical trials designed to increase patient access to medical therapies. UPMC is currently enrolling in the following heart valve disease focused trials: 

APOLLO: Transcatheter Mitral Valve Replacement with the Medtronic Intrepid™ TMVR System in patients with severe symptomatic mitral regurgitation

Clinical Trial to Evaluate Cardiovascular Outcomes in Patients Treated with the Tricuspid Valve Repair System

SMART: Medtronic Small Annuli Randomized to Evolut or Sapien Trial 

SUMMIT: Clinical Trial to Evaulate the Safety and Effectiveness of Using the Tendyne Mitral Valve System for the treatment of Symptomatic Mitral Regurgitation

In addition, UPMC has a long history of participating in groundbreaking, historic research centered around extending access to TAVR across different patient populations. 

Not everyone with valve disease has symptoms.

Doctors often find a valve problem during an echocardiogram for a heart murmur.

When people do have symptoms, they may include:

  • Shortness of breath.
  • Chest pain or pressure.
  • Fainting spells.
  • Lightheadedness.
  • Trouble breathing.
  • Swollen legs or stomach.

Diagnosing Heart Valve Disease

The diagnosis process starts with a physical exam and your health and family history.

Your doctor will listen to your heart and lungs with a stethoscope.

You may also have some imaging tests.

Our center has advanced imaging tools and skilled experts to read them.

These tools include:

  • Echocardiogram. Uses ultrasound waves to create images of your heart and valves.
  • EKG. Measures your heart's electrical activity.
  • Chest x-ray. Lets doctors see the size and shape of your heart.
  • Heart catheterization. Allows your doctor to see blood flow through the heart and its arteries.
  • MRI. Uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create images of your heart.
  • CT scan. A 4-D heart CT that let's your doctor see your heart valves and how they work.

Treatment varies by person and symptoms.

Treatments we offer at the UPMC Center for Heart Valve Disease include:

  • Medicine
  • Valve repair
  • Valve replacement

Our experts use minimally invasive techniques as well as open surgery.

UPMC was one of the first to do transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR). TAVR is a minimally invasive, catheter-based treatment for aortic valve stenosis.

The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute is the only hospital in western Pa. to offer the Ozaki procedure for aortic valve replacement. Led by Danny Chu, MD, our team of experts use an innovative surgical technique to replace your diseased aortic valve using your existing tissue. We perform the highest volume of adult Ozaki procedures in the U.S. and offer this specialized technique to patients diagnosed with:

  • Aortic valve stenosis
  • Aortic valve regurgitation
  • Bicuspid aortic valve
Watch the video to learn more about robotic mitral valve repair, featuring Dr. Johannes Bonatti.

Our Heart Disease Experts

The Center for Heart Valve Disease has experts across many specialties to provide complete care in one place.

Our doctors regularly take part in research, giving you access to the latest advances.

Heart valve disease experts

Interventional heart doctors

Heart surgeons

Advanced practice providers

Additional Resources

UPMC Center for Heart Valve Disease

Experts at the UPMC Center for Heart Valve Disease provide individualized care using cutting-edge technology and treatments.

Johannes Bonatti, MD, discusses robotic mitral valve repair, a minimally invasive heart procedure offered at UPMC.