ASK THE GP: I've got pills for my leaky heart valve - but do I need an operation? DR MARTIN SCURR answers your questions

Mail Online | 2/13/2018 | Martin Scurr for the Daily Mail
Click For Photo: http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2018/02/12/21/49250F8E00000578-0-image-a-5_1518470553887.jpg

Two years ago I was diagnosed with a leaky heart valve. I was prescribed 75mg clopidogrel and at the time, this worked. Now, at the grand old age of 83, although I’m still taking long walks and maintaining my large garden, my breathing is laboured and pushing my lightweight mower is an ordeal. I wondered if surgery was available — would a pacemaker be beneficial?

The news that you have a leaking heart valve must have caused you some anxiety and I don’t suppose the word ‘leaky’ helped. The usual medical term for leaking heart valves is ‘incompetent’, ‘insufficient’, or ‘regurgitating’ — the key is the severity.

Heart - Pump - Right - Sides - Blood

The heart is a double pump — the right and left sides work together to push blood around the body.

The right side receives deoxygenated blood returning from the body via the right atrium (the upper chamber); when this contracts it pushes the blood into the lower chamber, the right ventricle. When the ventricle contracts, this deoxygenated blood is pumped into the lungs, where carbon dioxide is removed and it’s replenished with oxygen.

Blood - Side - Heart - Side - Atrium

This freshly oxygenated blood is then received back into the left side of the heart, which is the larger, stronger side, via the left atrium. When the atrium contracts, the blood passes into the left ventricle, the main pumping chamber that sends blood around the body.

The role of the valves is to help keep the blood flowing forward — they are essentially flaps that open in only one direction as the blood flows through.

Valves - Heart - Side - Valves - Disease

There are four valves in the heart, but it’s the two on the left side — the mitral and aortic valves — that are most commonly damaged or affected by disease, causing leakage (this is not surprising as there’s much more pressure on the left).

The mitral valve sits between the left...
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