What is structural heart disease?

Structural heart disease arises from an abnormality in the heart’s walls, chambers or valves. Heart defects affecting the heart’s structure may occur at birth or later into adulthood. The risk of structural heart disease rises due to additional heart-related complications such as atherosclerosis, hypertension, cardiomyopathy, endocarditis, rheumatic fever and a prior heart attack.

Types of structural heart disease include:

  • Leaky heart valves affect blood flow throughout the heart. For example, one of the four main valves-the tricuspid, pulmonary, mitral and aortic valve may leak, causing blood to return to one of the valves.
  • A ventricular septal defect is a congenital disorder that occurs when a hole forms in the septum, a wall that divides the heart’s lower chambers. While a small ventricular septal defect may go unnoticed, a large defect can debilitate you.
  • Hypertrophy of the heart occurs when the muscle thickens. Hypertrophy makes it difficult to breathe and causes chest pain and heart arrhythmia. A thickened muscular wall obstructs blood flow from the heart. This is known as hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy. This type of hypertrophy is not due to hypertension but an underlying genetic abnormality in the heart muscle. Hypertrophy may also occur with hypertension leading to hypertensive heart disease.
  • Cardiomyopathy is a heart condition that affects the heart’s ability to transfer blood to other regions of the body. Medications (blood thinners and beta-blockers) and devices to correct arrhythmia (pacemakers and cardioverter-defibrillators), including medical devices to restore blood flow slow the progression of cardiomyopathy.
  • Myocarditis occurs due to an inflamed heart muscle. Pericarditis that also arises from inflammation affects the heart's outer lining.
  • Heart disease in pregnant women
    This may arise when women wanting to fall pregnant have underlying or known structural or valvular heart disease. Chest pain syndromes may occur during pregnancy.
  • Heart failure occurs due to limited blood flow from the heart. As a result, blood accumulates in the lungs, making it difficult to breathe. Being out of breath at rest, feeling extremely tired after exercise and swelling in the legs are common signs of heart failure.

What is the outcome of structural intervention surgery?

Structural intervention surgery depends on the type of cardiac defect. However, medication and surgery are treatment options to curb the progression of heart disease and, as a result, reduce symptoms.


What tests are used to diagnose structural heart disease?

Tests such as an MRI, computer tomography(CT), echocardiogram, and chest x-ray produce detailed images of the heart, indicating abnormalities of the heart’s shape. In addition, an electrocardiogram is a test designed to measure the heart’s electrical activity.

How do you treat structural heart disease?

Over the years, structural heart disease was treated through open surgery, but presently more advanced, less invasive techniques exist. Less invasive surgeries are carried out by a cardiologist and surgeon specialising in interventional techniques. Minimally invasive surgery is advantageous because you can recover much faster than undergoing open surgery with minimal bleeding and pain and little to no scarring. Surgeries include transcatheter aortic valve replacement/TAVR, cardiac catheterisation and occlusion devices to close hole’s that may exist in the heart.

Can an enlarged heart go back to normal?

Your heart muscle may thicken temporarily due to infection or pregnancy. However, this is nothing to be concerned about because your heart will return to its former state by shrinking naturally after treatment.

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