Cardiologists and cardiac surgeons at the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of heart valve conditions. Our patients are our priority. We take time to get to know each family, understand the cause and severity of each child's condition, explain our diagnostic process and answer any questions you may have about heart valve conditions.
The heart consists of four chambers, two atria (upper chambers) and two ventricles (lower chambers). Valves serve as gatekeepers, allowing blood to leave each chamber of the heart while preventing it from flowing backward. There are four heart valves: the tricuspid valve, pulmonary valve, mitral valve and aortic valve. Common heart valve conditions include:
- Regurgitation, which occurs when the valve doesn't close completely, allowing blood to flow backward into the heart
- Stenosis, or valve narrowing, which prevents the heart from properly distributing blood to the body
- Atresia, or undeveloped valves, which prevents blood from passing between the atria and ventricles
Diagnosing Heart Valve Conditions in Children
When evaluating children for heart valve conditions, our physicians begin by taking a medical history and performing a physical exam. We may also use some of the following tests:
- Echocardiogram, which uses sound waves to create a picture of the heart
- Transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE), an echocardiogram performed using a scope to provide a clearer, more precise image of the heart
- Cardiac catheterization, which is a minimally invasive procedure that uses a small, flexible tube to examine the heart
- Electrocardiogram (EKG), which uses electrodes to measure the electrical activity of the heart
Heart valve conditions may be congenital or they may be caused by infection. Determining the cause of the condition will help our cardiologists to recommend the proper care plan. Treatment may include medical, interventional and/or surgical methods, such as cardiac catheterization and valve repair or replacement.
Managing a valve disorder often requires ongoing care. At Comer Children's, we offer comprehensive, continuous treatment for patients of all ages. When the time is right, we help teenagers and young adults transition to adult specialists.