Surgeon explains heart valve disease
Members of the North Catasauqua and Catasauqua communities heard a lecture Feb. 21 entitled "The ABCs of Heart Valve Disease" by Sanjay Mehta, M.D., of the Lehigh Valley Heart and Lung Surgeons, at the Suburban North Family YMCA.
Mehta said surgery on heart valves occurs for one of two reasons. First, the valves wear out, become stiff and scar and, two, valves may leak, commonly called "regurgitation."
"Either too tight or too loose and you got a problem," he told the audience.
Mehta said cases where patients require surgery involve a patient who is born with a congenital defect, rheumatic disease, myxomatous, endocarditis or senile stenosis.
He emphasized to the audience the importance of good dental health.
"People with poor dental health have a higher incidence of heart disease," he said.
Mehta told the audience his expertise is called on when the patient begins experiencing symptoms that illustrate the heart is showing evidence of failing or that an abnormality of the heart valve becoming serious.
"We want to take care of the people early in the disease, not late in the disease," he said.
Patients are initially evaluated by an echocardiogram. Additional evaluative methods include a cardiac catheterization, ultrasound and pulmonary function studies and a CT scan of the chest, he said.
Heart valve surgeries, Mehta said, are performed at Lehigh Valley Hospital by a large team of medical professionals.
"We got a really well, robust surgery network there," he said. "Heart surgery is a big team sport."
Mehta also explained to the audience how each valve is repaired or replaced. The aortic valve is opened up and the old structure is taken out and replaced with a new pipe-like structure.
The aortic valve "rarely gets repaired because it's worn out," he said. With respect to the mitral and tricuspid valves, Mehta said he makes every effort to repair them.
When fixing the valves, there are a wide selection of rings that can be used, which do not wear out and do not require the patient to be on blood thinners.
Another option used to repair and replace a heart valve include the utilization of tissue valves.
"The nice thing about a tissue valve is it only requires you to be on aspirin, not a blood thinner, but they wear out at about 10 years," he said.
Although mechanical valves, which are also used, do not experience wear and tear, they do require taking a blood thinner for life.
The future of heart valve surgery will see mechanical valves that offer a better flow and surface attributes and alternatives to blood thinners, such as Coumadin, he told the audience.
The usual stay in the hospital after surgery is four to five days, he said.
The Suburban North Family YMCA will hold another lunch and learn event in the spring.