It can be upsetting to learn that your heart is not structured or functioning correctly. Fortunately, there are many effective treatments for structural heart disease. You can benefit from the latest therapies when you receive care at our Structural Heart Disease Program

What is structural heart disease?

People with structural heart disease have conditions that affect the heart’s valves or chambers. These problems affect the heart’s ability to pump and circulate blood.

Some people are born with congenital heart defects, meaning the problems are present at birth. Some structural heart problems develop with age or after an illness or infection.

Types of structural heart disease

We offer comprehensive treatments for the different types of structural heart disease including:

  • Coronary artery fistula
  • Heart chamber openings
  • Heart valve disease

The coronary arteries supply blood to the heart. A fistula is an abnormal connection of the coronary artery to a blood vessel or heart chamber. Most people are born with this problem (known as congenital). Some people develop a fistula after an infection, accident or surgery.

Some fistulas go unnoticed and never require treatment. But some people experience heart murmurs, chest pain, heart palpitations and fatigue. For these people, the defect may increase the risk of heart attack, heart failure or arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat).

Some people are born with an opening in the wall that separates the heart’s chambers. A small opening that does not cause problems may not require treatment.

There are different types of heart openings:

  • Patent foramen ovale (PFO): Everyone is born with an opening, or PFO, between the heart’s top chambers (atria). In some patients, there may be an increased risk of stroke if a PFO does not naturally close after birth.
  • Septal defects: A septal defect is a gap between the heart’s top chambers (atrial septal defect) or lower chambers (ventricular septal defect). This opening allows oxygen-rich and oxygen-poor blood to mix. As a result, the risk of heart failure and pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the lungs’ arteries) goes up.

People with heart valve disease have one or more valves that do not open or close properly. Faulty valves strain your heart by forcing it to work harder to circulate blood. You may feel persistently tired and weak. Over time, you may develop heart failure.

The different types of heart valve disease include:

  • Stenosis: A stiffened heart valve does not fully open. This problem may reduce blood flow to the heart or cause blood to leak out of it. People with stenosis have a higher risk of heart failure, arrhythmia and pulmonary hypertension.
  • Regurgitation: A poorly closing heart valve allows blood to leak out of the valve. Sometimes blood flows back into the heart. People with valve regurgitation have a higher risk of heart failure, arrhythmia and heart infections.

Why choose UC Davis for structural heart disease care

We provide outstanding care for both routine and harder-to-treat structural heart problems. You benefit from:

  • Highly sought expertise: Academic medical centers nationwide ask our doctors to train their teams in the latest structural heart disease treatments. You receive exceptional care from doctors whose skills are nationally recognized.
  • Latest nonsurgical approaches: Our doctors are heavily involved in cardiovascular clinical trials for new treatments. We are particularly dedicated to offering new catheter-based approaches. These procedures take place through an artery — not an open-chest incision. As a result, you have less pain and scarring.
  • Comprehensive treatments: Our status as an academic medical center means we can offer a wider variety of treatments. Your care also benefits from the expertise of a large number of heart and vascular specialists. If a certain treatment isn’t an option for you, your doctor has the resources and specialists on-hand to find the right solution.
  • Ease of access: Your time matters, especially when you do not feel well. In our program, we work hard to provide the services you need in one visit. You’re often able to undergo tests and meet with multiple specialists on the same day.
  • Heart recovery programs: Following treatment, your doctor may recommend that you participate in our Cardiac Rehab Program. Here, you receive supervised exercise and nutrition guidance to aid your recovery. Our experienced team has been providing cardiac rehab services for more than 20 years.

Contact us

For appointments, please call 1-800-2-UC-DAVIS (1-800-282-3284) or connect with one of our heart and vascular specialists.