The heart valves are one-way valves that allow blood to flow in one direction only (through the heart). If a valve does not close (valvular insufficiency), blood flows out of and then back into the heart. Valvular insufficiency may be present at birth (congenital) or can occur later because of disease.
It may affect the right, left, or both sides of the heart. Signs of left-sided heart failure include difficult breathing, coughing, and decreased stamina. With right-sided heart failure, signs include decreased appetite, weight loss, gradual abdominal enlargement, occasional vomiting and diarrhea, and swollen limbs. In many cases, signs of both right and left heart failure are present.
Important Points in Treatment
1. Many cases of valvular insufficiency can be successfully controlled for long periods with medication. A thorough physical examination, laboratory tests, chest and abdominal radiographs (x-rays), and electrocardiograms are necessary to devise a proper treatment program. In some cases, angiography and echocardiography are also needed.