Heart Chambers 

Your heart muscle relaxes to fill with blood and then squeezes, or contracts, to pump blood out to your body. To pump enough blood with each relaxation/contraction cycle, the heart must be able to relax and contract properly. Structural heart diseases that involve one of the heart’s chambers are most often thought to be congenital heart defects, or being present from birth. However, that’s not always true. 

Heart Chambers in contentAbnormalities within the chambers can also develop from wear, tear, and damage that happens over a person’s lifetime from:

  • Alcohol abuse
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Exposure to certain infections
  • Heart attack: The heart pumps oxygen-rich blood to its own muscle through coronary arteries. If those arteries become narrowed or blocked, and blood flow to the muscle is interrupted or stopped, the heart muscle can be permanently damaged and no longer able to work as it was designed. 

Conditions We Treat with Advanced Technology

Atrial Septal Defect

An atrial septal defect or ASD is a hole in the heart’s wall which separates the top two chambers (atria). This condition is present from birth. In many cases, small ASDs may close on their own during infancy or early childhood. Small defects may never cause a problem, but large, long-standing atrial septal defects can damage the heart and lungs. An adult who has had a large undetected or untreated ASD may have a shortened life span from heart failure or pulmonary hypertension, which is high blood pressure that affects the lung’s arteries. 

Available treatments for atrial septal defects:

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or HCM is a disease in which the heart muscle becomes abnormally thick (hypertrophied). This can make it harder for blood to be pumped efficiently. Many people with HCM have few, if any, symptoms and can lead normal lives without significant heart health problems. However, there are some individuals with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy that experience shortness of breath, chest pain, heart rhythm disorders, or sudden cardiac arrest.

Treatments for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy:

  • Medications to relax the heart muscle and slow down its rate, so the pumping actions are more efficient.
  • If the patient has an arrhythmia, blood thinning medication may be prescribed to reduce the risk of blood clots forming, entering the blood stream, and causing a TIA or stroke. 
  • An implantable cardioverter-defibrillator or ICD may be necessary for life-threatening arrhythmias. An ICD is a small device that is implanted in the chest and continuously monitors the heartbeat. If or when a life-threatening arrhythmia occurs, the ICD is designed to deliver calibrated electrical shocks to restore a normal heart rhythm. 
  • Open-chest septal myectomy is surgical approach used to remove part of the thickened muscle between the ventricles. 
  • Alcohol septal ablation is a non-surgical, catheter-based approach that destroys a small portion of the thickened heart muscle by injecting alcohol into the artery that supplies blood to the enlarged section of muscle. A septal ablation can improve symptoms. However, heart block, a disruption of the heart’s electrical system, is a potential complication and may require a pacemaker implantation.

Left Atrial Appendage

Heart Cross Section graphicThe left atrial appendage or LAA is a normal, pocket-like structure in the heart’s top left chamber. Like the appendix found in the gastro-intestinal system, the LAA does not have a known purpose or function, and rarely presents a problem for individuals with healthy hearts. Stroke is the most serious complication of atrial fibrillation or A Fib, a common heart rhythm disorder that currently affects more than five million Americans. People with A Fib are five times more likely to have a stroke when compared to people with normal heart rhythms. Research shows that close to 90 percent of A Fib related strokes have their start when blood clots form in the left atrial appendage. 

Treatments to reduce stroke risk for patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation: 

  • Historically, the treatment of choice has been with blood thinning medication such as warfarin, but not everyone can tolerate making blood thinners a part of their daily routine. 
  • Open-chest surgical removal of the left atrial appendage
  •  Left atrial appendage closure or LAAC with the Watchman™ Device is a one-time, catheter-based intervention that offers certain patients living with atrial fibrillation the opportunity to reduce their stroke risks and eliminate blood-thinning medication from their daily routine. This medically advanced technology uses a permanent implant device that can block blood flow from going into the area of the heart where blood is most likely to pool during episodes of atrial fibrillation, prevent blot clot formation, avoid A Fib related stroke damage, and over time, remove the need for warfarin therapy.

Please watch an animated videoOff Site Icon of a left atrial appendage closure using a Watchman™ Device, and learn more. 

Patent Foramen Ovale

A patent foramen ovale or PFO is a hole in the heart that didn’t close at birth. Before delivery, a small, flap-like opening called the foramen ovale is normally present between the heart’s top right and left chambers. It is necessary for fetal circulation, and normally closes during infancy. When it doesn’t close, it’s called a patent foramen ovale. 

Both an atrial septal defect and a patent foramen ovale have an open hole between the two atria, but only the PFO has the flap-like piece of tissue over the hole’s opening. This flap can open when there is pressure in the chest from movements caused by coughing or sneezing. 

A patent foramen ovale is not an uncommon condition. Because of the lack of symptoms, people who have a PFO live with it without knowing. In adulthood, a patent foramen ovale usually does not cause complications and is often only discovered during testing for other health concerns. However, some research studies have found PFOs to be more common in people with unexplained transient ischemic attacks or TIAs, stroke, and migraines with aura. The possible link between small blood clots in the heart moving through a PFO, traveling to the brain, and causing a stroke is controversial. In rare cases, a PFO can cause a significant amount of blood to bypass the lungs, and result in low blood oxygen levels. 

Treatments available to reduce the risk of stroke and other related patent foramen ovale complications:

Ventricular Septal Defect

A ventricular septal defect or VSD is an opening between the left and right ventricles. A VSD may be present from birth, or can occur after a heart attack. In a normal heart, oxygen-poor blood flows from the right ventricle to the lungs, and oxygen-rich blood flows from the left ventricle to the rest of the body. A VSD allows oxygen-rich blood from the left ventricle to be diverted from the aorta and flow into the right ventricle. 

Sometimes a ventricular septal defect isn’t discovered until adulthood. A small VSD may never cause a problem. Medium to large defects can cause mild to life threatening complications such as low blood oxygen levels, pulmonary hypertension, endocarditis, abnormal heart rhythms, or heart failure. 

Treatments for ventricular septal defects:

  • Medications to increase the strength of heart contractions, decrease fluids in circulation and the lung, and keep the heart rhythm regular. If the patient is at high risk for complications, preventative antibiotics with medical and dental procedures.
  • Open-chest surgical repair in which a prosthetic patch or stitches are used to close the defect 
  • Ventricular septal defect transcatheter repair

Don’t Give Your Heart to Anyone. Trust Premier Health

The Structural Heart Program’s innovative technologies and techniques are designed to provide quality care for positive patient outcomes - with fewer complications, shorter recoveries, and long-lasting benefits. We welcome patients seeking second opinions on their heart disease care and treatment options. 

If you or a loved one would like more information about the many services our Structural Heart Program offers, please call (937) 499-7427(937) 499-7427.

Content Updated: July 18, 2018

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