Surgery is usually the best fix for a severe heart valve disease. Different types of heart valve blockages can happen, and surgery is necessary to fix these problems.

Your heart is split into four chambers, and four valves separate these chambers. The valves help move blood from one chamber to the next and prevent blood from flowing backward.

Any blockage or malfunction of your heart valves can cause serious problems for your heart function and how effectively your heart can pump blood to the rest of your body.

This article will cover some types of blockages that can happen in your heart valves and what kinds of treatment you can expect.

As your heart pumps, it’s important that the necessary amount of blood moves from one chamber to another with each pump.

When your heart valves don’t work properly, blood may not move through the valves from one chamber to the next. A blockage can also allow blood to leak backward into a chamber, reducing the overall amount of blood that your heart is pumping.

Heart valve blockages must be treated quickly or they can cause serious heart dysfunction and problems throughout the rest of your body.

Heart valve disorders are split into three categories. All these types of valve disorders can damage blood flow through your heart.


Regurgitation happens when a valve doesn’t close completely or tightly enough and blood flows back through the valve it came through. The mitral valve is most prone to this problem, and the valve may bulge or flap back (prolapse).


When valves become thickened, stiff, or stuck together, stenosis is the result. Stenosis of a valve prevents the flap from opening and closing all the way. Not enough blood flows through these partially open valves.

Because this problem mostly affects the valve that moves blood into your aorta (your largest artery), stenosis can reduce the amount of blood your heart can pump out to the rest of your body.


Atresia is usually a congenital issue — one that happens when your heart valves are forming. It causes the valves to form improperly, without openings for blood to pass through.

Surgery is necessary to fix these severe heart valve problems.

Although your doctor may be able to offer medications that can help improve your heart function while you prepare for surgery, surgical valve repair or replacement is usually necessary when valve disease becomes severe.

There are options for heart valve surgery, though.

Valve repair surgery is not an option in every case but can usually be used to address problems with mitral or tricuspid valve regurgitation.

If you need a full valve replacement, traditional open heart surgery is often necessary. However, in some cases, you may be a candidate for a minimally invasive valve replacement method called transcatheter aortic valve replacement or transcatheter aortic valve implantation.

During this procedure, a surgeon inserts a new valve to replace the old, damaged valve. They leave the old valve in place and insert a new collapsible valve through a catheter inserted into an artery in your groin — similarly to the way heart stents are placed.

This procedure isn’t an option for everyone — it’s mostly used to treat blockages from aortic stenosis or mitral valve regurgitation.

Heart valve problems cause symptoms that signal either a lack of blood flow through your heart or a backup of blood flow in your body.

Here are some of the most common symptoms you may notice with blockages in the valves of your heart:

  • shortness of breath
  • fatigue
  • swelling in your belly, feet, or ankles or the veins in your neck
  • chest pain during activity
  • changes in your heart rate or rhythm
  • dizziness or fainting

If left untreated, these symptoms can worsen or progress to more serious issues such as:

Some heart valve blockages develop before you’re even born. These congenital issues usually involve a valve that doesn’t form correctly. Family history can also play a role.

Beyond those causes (which you have no control over), some of the most common causes and risk factors for heart valve disease are linked to:

Valve repair or replacement is the most effective way to treat heart valve problems. When your heart valves don’t function properly, blood can’t move from your heart to your lungs or out to the rest of your body.

If doctors catch a heart valve issue early, they can prescribe medications to make your heart pump more effectively and recommend lifestyle strategies to help improve your heart function.

You can’t prevent every type of heart valve disorder. Family history of heart disease and congenital abnormalities are not preventable, either. But you can take steps to prevent heart valve disease and other cardiac disorders by:

  • eating a heart-healthy diet
  • exercising regularly
  • managing cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and heart failure
  • maintaining good dental hygiene

Seeing your primary care doctor regularly can help you identify and address risk factors for heart disease before they progress to the point where surgery is necessary.

Heart valve disease is a structural problem that usually requires surgery. Some heart valve diseases are preventable, while others develop as a result of genetics or a congenital irregularity.

Maintaining heart-healthy habits throughout your life and having regular checkups with a healthcare professional can help you prevent, manage, or treat heart valve diseases before they require surgery.