Structural & Valvular Heart Care
You have a structural heart condition if you were born with a heart defect or experience valve or heart wall problems due to wear and tear. Get all the services you need—including innovative new treatments—from UNC REX Healthcare’s team of structural and valvular care heart specialists.
Heart Valve Disease & Conditions
Your heart has four chambers and four valves. Normally, these valves help control and direct blood flow through or out of your heart, and then shut to keep it from flowing backward. But sometimes they don't work properly. If they don't, you could have one of these conditions.
Aortic stenosis is a common disease of the heart. It results in restricted blood flow through a narrowed aortic valve. The aortic valve separates the main pumping chamber of the heart, the left ventricle, from the rest of the body. In other words, all the blood that the heart pumps to the body must pass through this valve.
So, your aortic valve should open easily, allowing blood to pass through without any resistance.But the aortic valve can become narrow when it becomes diseased. When this happens, it becomes thickened, and heavily calcified, and unable to open properly.
Learn more about signs and symptoms of aortic stenosis.
Normally, the heart triggers each heart beat by sending out an electrical signal, which is conducted through the heart muscle. This signal is transmitted through the heart, causing the heart to pump in a regular, coordinated fashion. For a variety of reasons, the heart’s electrical system can develop a short circuit, where other areas of the heart fire off electrical signals which initiate heartbeats. Atrial fibrillation, or a-fib, is the most common type of these short circuits, and it results in an irregular, and often abnormally fast heart beat.
Learn more about signs and symptoms of atrial fibrillation.
One of the heart valves is the mitral valve, which separates the left upper chamber (left atrium) from the main pumping chamber of the heart, the left ventricle
For a number of reasons, the mitral valve may become thickened and calcified, ultimately becoming clogged. This is a dangerous condition that will prevent oxygen-rich blood from flowing from the lungs into the left ventricle, and ultimately to the body. This clogging of valve is called mitral stenosis.
Learn more about signs and symptoms of mitral stenosis.
The lower left chamber of the heart is also called the left ventricle: It’s the main pumping chamber of the heart. Blood passes from the lungs, where it picks up oxygen, through the mitral valve, into the left ventricle. When the heart pumps, the mitral valve should close so that all the blood flows forward out of the heart to the body. In patients with mitral regurgitation, some of this blood flows backwards, back into the left upper chamber of the heart and back toward the lungs.
Learn more about the signs and symptoms of mitral regurgitation.
Atrial Septal Defect (ASD)
Treating Heart Valves & Heart Defects
Turn to us when you need one of these advanced procedures.
If your mitral, aortic or tricuspid valve has trouble controlling blood flow through the heart, a surgeon may reshape or rebuild flaps that open and close the valve. Whenever possible, a UNC REX Healthcare surgeon will perform your procedure using a minimally invasive technique that requires smaller incisions and speeds recovery.
Sometimes, a mitral, aortic or tricuspid valve is too damaged for repair. So, a surgeon may replace it with a valve made of metal or biological material. Whenever possible, a UNC REX Healthcare surgeon will perform the procedure using a minimally invasive technique that requires smaller incisions and speeds recovery.
If you don’t qualify for surgery to replace the aortic valve, you may benefit from a less-invasive procedure called transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR).
Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR)
Your doctor may recommend a new treatment called MitraClip Therapy if you don’t qualify for mitral valve surgery. The MitraClip procedure, otherwise known as a Transcatheter Mitral Valve Repair with MitraClip Therapy, is a minimally invasive repair of the mitral valve, the valve that separates the upper left and lower left chambers of your heart.
In a valvuloplasty, a physician threads a tiny balloon through an artery and up to a heart valve that doesn’t open fully because of disease or calcium buildup. When inflated, the balloon widens the valve opening and improves blood flow.
WatchmanTM for Atrial Fibrillation Patients
If you have non-valvular atrial fibrillation, the new WatchmanTM device may reduce your risk of stroke. This treatment offers an alternative to blood-thinning medications. Learn more about Watchman.
Meet Our Team
Structural heart and valve disease treatment requires close collaboration between our specialists and cardiac surgeons. A highly trained team of heart and vascular specialists work together with patients on a care plan.
Structural Heart patients, please download and fill out the patient intake forms and bring with you to your first appointment.
Intake Forms [PDF]
Research and Clinical Trials
UNC REX Healthcare’s team of structural and valvular care heart specialists participate in a clinical trials and use the latest technology available today to perform advanced treatments for our patients. Ask your physician about open clinical trials available at UNC REX. Learn more about clinical trials.
Conscious Sedation Speeds Recovery
When you choose UNC REX Healthcare for your procedure, you may recover sooner and experience fewer side effects thanks to our use of conscious sedation—rather than general anesthesia—whenever appropriate. You’ll receive anesthetic to prevent pain and a sedative for relaxation, but will stay awake during treatment.
North Carolina Heart & Vascular Hospital
The hospital brings together in one location UNC REX's heart and vascular care along with the latest technology for patient care and procedures. Take a virtual tour of the procedure and patient rooms before your visit.