Valvular Heart Disease (incl. Aortic & Mitral Stenosis & Regurgitation)

Valvular heart disease occurs when the valves of the heart become diseased or damaged, affecting the blood flow through the body and putting extra strain on the heart. There are two main types of valvular heart disease:

  • Valve stenosis – occurs when the valve becomes narrowed or doesn’t open properly, restricting blood flow through the valve.
  • Valve regurgitation – occurs when the valve does not close in a normal way, causing the blood to flow backwards or leak through the valve. (This condition is also known as ‘valve incompetence’, or ‘leaky valve’).


The most common cause of valvular heart disease is rheumatic fever, which often follows an infection with streptococcus. This is where the natural antibodies produced by the body to fight the infection start attacking parts of the body, including the heart valves.

Other causes include:


The symptoms of valvular heart disease depend on which valve has been affected and the extent to which it has narrowed or is leaking.  Minor valvular damage may cause no visible symptoms.

The main symptoms are:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness or fainting spells
  • Chest pain or angina
  • Heart palpitations
  • Swelling of the ankles and feet


In order to diagnose valvular heart disease, a range of tests may be used:

  • Echocardiography
  • Transesophageal echocardiography
  • Cardiac catheterisation (also called an angiogram)
  • Radionuclide scans
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)


Treatment of valvular heart disease will depend on the severity of the valvular damage and the affect it is having on the heart. Treatment typically involves medication to ease the symptoms and, in some cases, surgery to repair or replace the damaged heart valve.

Case Studies

Patient Video: Aortic Valve Replacement

Heart patient, Trudi Posner, 79, shares her story of having an aortic valve replacement at Harefield Hospital under the private care of consultant surgeon, Mr Mohamed Amrani.

Patient Video: Pacemaker fitting for arrhythmia

John shares his story about having treatment at Harefield Hospital, under the care of Consultant, Dr David Jones.