What Does It Mean If I Have Structural Heart Disease?

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

If you’ve been told you have structural heart disease, you may wonder what that even is. You’re familiar with heart disease, but what about the structural part?

Well, there’s a key distinction between the heart disease you normally hear about and structural heart disease—and it’s pretty easy to understand. Structural heart disease relates to the structure of the heart.

Read on as Pranav Kansara, MD, MS, FACC, FSCAI, medical director of NGHS’ Structural Heart Program, breaks down a few key facts about this type of heart disease, the different forms it can take and how it’s treated.

What Makes Structural Heart Disease Different?

While we often hear heart disease referenced as a single medical condition, it’s actually an umbrella term encompassing multiple diseases. Most of these conditions relate to the narrowing or blockage of blood vessels in the heart, also known as coronary artery disease, which is the most common type of heart disease.

Structural heart disease is also a form of heart disease, but it works differently. If you’ve been told you have this type of heart disease, it means that your heart’s tissues and/or valves—the structure of the heart—have been damaged or aren’t working properly.

Many structural heart conditions can be congenital, which means they’re present at birth. But structural heart disease can also develop over time through wear and tear or as a result of some other type of disease. In fact, more than 10 percent of adults over age 75 have some type of structural heart disease.

Types of Structural Heart Disease

As with heart disease as a whole, there are also different forms of structural heart disease. Each specific type causes different health issues and symptoms, but all relate to the structure of the heart tissue or the valves.

Structural heart disease includes these conditions:

  • Aortic valve stenosis
  • Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy
  • Holes in the heart, including atrial septal defect (ASD) and patent foramen ovale (PFO)
  • Left ventricular hypertrophy
  • Mitral valve prolapse and/or regurgitation
  • Myocarditis
  • Tricuspid valve regurgitation

Depending on the specific type of structural heart disease you have, you may experience a wide range of symptoms, including chest pain, extreme fatigue, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeats, kidney dysfunction, leg cramps, shortness of breath, even stroke.

How Structural Heart Disease Is Treated

In some cases, structural heart disease may not require treatment aside from careful and regular monitoring. But in most cases, treatment is required to keep the heart functioning at its best – and to prevent worsening disease.

Treatment options will vary depending on the specific type of structural heart issue, as well as its severity. Many patients see improvement of symptoms with the use of prescribed medications, while the best option for others may include innovative minimally-invasive structural heart procedures performed via catheter with an interventional cardiologist.

Structural Heart Expertise

At The Heart Center of NGMC, we ensure every patient with a structural heart condition receives personalized care that effectively and safely addresses their unique needs. This starts with NGHS’ Structural and Valvular Heart Disease Clinic, which brings together experts from interventional cardiology and cardiothoracic surgery to carefully review each patient’s condition and to collaborate on the best course of treatment.