Guías de práctica clínica de la Sociedad Española de Cardiología en valvulopatías
ABSTRACT Valvular heart diseases, which continue to be a major cause of morbidity and mortality world wide, have undergone radical changes since the first valve prostheses were implanted 40 years ago. These changes have been the result of both scientific progress and improved standard of living in developed countries. The availability of penicillin to treat streptococcal pharyngitis and less crowded living conditions have now made rheumatic fever uncommon in these countries. However, other forms of valve impairment have appeared over the past several years. The etiology of some of these valvular diseases remains obscure (e. g. myxomatous mitral valve); others, such as the senile type of calcific aortic valve stenosis, seem to be the price to be paid for the extension of life expectancy. With regard to diagnosis, echocardiography has constituted a formidable tool for visualizing anatomic valve changes, interpreting complex hemodynamic derangements, and evaluating repercussion on the left ventricle. In addition, the iteration of this non-invasive examination has allowed a much better understanding of the natural history of non-severe valvular disease and therefore of the precise timing for surgical intervention, without awaiting, in most cases, the appearance of advanced symptomatology. This has also been possible because of the great advances in cardiac surgery which can be summarised as: a) the improvement in extracorporeal circulation and myocardial preservation techniques; b) the greatly improved biologic and mechanic valve substitutes; c) the introduction of imaginative mitral valve repair procedures, and d) the use of intraoperative transesophageal echocardiography to assess the adequacy of valve repair. At the same time, percutaneous catheter balloon valvuloplasty has emerged as a valid alternative to mitral surgical commissurotomy for mitral stenosis. All these changes, and many more that can not be described in this brief summary, make a review of the management of patients with valve heart disease appropriate.