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Wessex heart valve clinic

What is valvular heart disease?

Every time your heart beats, there are little flaps of tissue inside the heart called valves that open and close to allow blood to flow in and out of the heart. The average heart valve opens and closes over 30 million times every year! As a result, over time the valves can get worn out – either they don’t open as well as they should (becoming narrow) or they don’t close properly (becoming leaky).

When heart valves become very narrow or very leaky, they cause the heart to work harder than it should and can cause symptoms like chest pain, breathlessness and even dizziness. If this isn't recognised and treated, eventually it will lead to complications such as heart failure.

Heart valves which become very narrow or very leaky can be repaired or replaced during an operation. It is important to monitor closely patients with heart valve disease to make sure that, if an operation is needed, it is done promptly. It's also important to follow up patients after valve surgery, as sometimes patients may develop problems in later life (this may be many years later).

About the clinic

Southampton has one of the largest and most highly regarded cardiac centres in the UK. Every year, over 500 heart valve operations are performed here. In 2018, Southampton General Hospital introduced the Wessex heart valve clinic (HVC). The HVC is a multi-disciplinary clinic, in which a senior ultrasound sonographer (cardiac physiologist), advanced nurse specialist and consultant cardiologist with subspecialist interest in heart valve disease work together to deliver specialist care to patients with heart valve disease, both before and after heart valve surgery.

Some patients with a narrowing of their aortic valve may be suitable for a transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI) procedure, which Southampton General Hospital has offered since 2009. The HVC team work closely with the TAVI team to ensure continuity of care for these patients with aortic valve disease.

The HVC patients mostly come from Hampshire but we are very happy to see patients from the wider region (e.g. Dorset, Wiltshire, Sussex and the Channel Islands) if required. Patients may have an electrocardiogram (ECG) and echocardiogram (ECHO) in clinic and – after surgery – will receive specialist education on looking after their new heart valve to reduce the chances of complications in the future.