Pulmonary valve stenosis is a condition in which the pulmonary valve of the heart cannot open sufficiently. When the valve is too narrow, blood flow to the lungs is reduced. Typically, this condition is a congenital defect, which means that it is present at birth; however, adults may sometimes develop pulmonary valve stenosis as a result of an illness, such as rheumatic fever. While surgery is often the first course of treatment, medications may be used by patients who also have other heart problems. Treatment may not be needed for those who have only a mild case of the disorder.
Mild pulmonary valve stenosis may not cause any symptoms, or may only cause symptoms when the patient is exercising. When symptoms occur with more severe cases of this disorder, the patient may experience chest pain, shortness of breath, and fainting. Unusual fatigue and heart murmur have also been reported. Some patients have experienced poor weight gain, blue skin discoloration, or abdominal distention with more severe cases.
If a heart murmur is heard during a routine physical exam, the doctor will likely recommend running tests to diagnose plumonary valve stenosis. An echocardiogram will show the doctor an image of the heart, while an electrocardiogram will record the heart's activity to check for abnormalities. When the patient is likely to need surgical treatment, the doctor will also perform a cardiac catheterization. This procedure involves inserting a catheter into a vein, pushing it up to the heart, and using an injected dye to take x-ray images of the blood vessels.
There is no cure for pulmonary valve stenosis; however, surgical treatment can improve the blood circulation. If the doctor determines that a balloon valvuloplasty is necessary, this procedure will likely be performed along with the cardiac catheterization. During a balloon valvuloplasty, a tube will be inserted into a vein and it will be guided to the heart. It contains a balloon, which will be inflated when it reaches the narrowed valve. The balloon will be removed once it has widened the valve.
In certain patients, depending on exactly where the narrowing occurs, a pulmonary valve stenosis must be treated with open-heart surgery instead of a balloon valvuloplasty. It is also more likely for a patient to have this more extensive surgery if they also suffer from other heart defects. The surgeon will be able to repair these defects, along with the valve, or he may implant an artificial valve if repairs may be likely to fail.
Those who have other heart defects along with pulmonary valve stenosis may benefit from taking medications. Blood thinners can be used to help prevent blood clots and water pills can remove excess fluid from the body. Medications called prostaglandins can help improve the flow of blood in the heart. Before taking a new drug, patients with pulmonary valve stenosis should discuss their other medications, supplements, and medical conditions with the prescribing physician.