Monitoring heart valve disease: What to expect

If you have heart valve disease but you're not experiencing symptoms, you'll need regular follow-up appointments to monitor your condition and modify your treatments, when necessary. For some people — especially those born with their heart condition — routine monitoring and a healthy lifestyle may be all that's needed for a long time, sometimes forever. Others may need surgery at some point.

As you're learning how to manage your heart valve disease, it may be helpful to understand what to expect from routine follow-ups and how your doctor may help you manage your condition over time.

What to expect in a follow-up appointment

You'll likely need to see your doctor about once a year for heart valve disease. How often you see your doctor depends on the severity of your heart valve condition. You may need to see a heart specialist (cardiologist) with expertise in heart valve disease.

In follow-up appointments, your doctor may:

  • Do a physical exam
  • Ask about symptoms
  • Ask about changes in symptoms, if any
  • Check for any changes in your condition and see how well your heart is working
  • Order an imaging test called an echocardiogram to look for possible changes in the condition of your heart or heart valves
  • Order other tests if needed

If your doctor doesn't find any changes in your condition, you may be able to continue with regular monitoring. Your doctor may suggest you continue to live life normally between your appointments. To support your heart's health, your doctor might also suggest you eat a heart-healthy diet, get regular exercise and keep a healthy weight. He or she may also give you instructions about foods to avoid and exercises that may be too strenuous for your heart.

In some cases, your doctor may suggest medications. Medications might be needed to help you:

  • Manage symptoms such as swelling of your ankles and feet
  • Manage other heart conditions and high blood pressure
  • Reduce the risk of blood clots
  • Keep your heart rhythm steady

When you might need surgery

Regular monitoring, a healthy lifestyle and, sometimes, medications to manage symptoms can help you keep your heart as healthy as possible with heart valve disease and help doctors see any changes in your heart or condition over time. But at some point you may need surgery.

Your doctor may suggest surgery to repair or replace a heart valve due to several factors, such as if you have other related conditions, changes in your heart's size or severe symptoms, or if your heart isn't pumping blood well. In some cases, your doctor may recommend surgery even if you don't have symptoms or other factors. After surgery, you'll need to see your doctor for regular follow-up appointments.

Jan. 14, 2020 See more In-depth