The Howard Gilman Institute for Valvular Heart Disease
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Patient Care


1. Overview

2. Diagnosis

3. Treatment Recommendations

4. Case Studies



Diagnosis of heart valve disease and its severity requires a series of clinical and objective evaluations.

Once these evaluations are complete, treatment recommendations are made to alleviate the disease.


Symptoms are complaints that patients report to doctors.

Some patients with severe heart valve disease may have symptoms; others may not.

Common symptoms that generally indicate serious heart valve disease include:

  • Shortness of breath
    • aortic stenosis
    • mitral stenosis
    • aortic regurgitation
    • mitral regurgitation

  • Light-headedness, chest pain and feeling faint, particularly during exercise
    • aortic stenosis


Signs are abnormalities detected by a doctor during a physical examination.

Signs can indicate the severity of disease and modify conclusions based on symptoms alone.

Clinical and Objective Evaluations

Patients with known or suspected heart valve disease are usually referred to the Institute by either their primary care physician or cardiologist. When treating these patients, Institute staff contacts and regularly consults with the referring doctor.

Some patients make appointments directly.

Diagnostic Process

The diagnostic process is simple, yet complex:

  • A medical history is taken, which covers symptoms, risk factors and family health record.
  • A comprehensive physical examination is performed.
  • A determination is made as to which, if any, tests are necessary (including, but not limited to radioisotope imaging, exercise tolerance testing, electrocardiogram, echocardiogram)
  • Tests are scheduled.
  • Results are evaluated
  • Institute staff develops treatment recommendations based on a combination of history, physical examination and test results.
  • Recommendations are discussed with the patient and referring/primary care physician.


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The Howard Gilman Institute for Heart Valve Disease