Narrowing of the pulmonary valve is most often present at birth (congenital). It is caused by a problem that occurs as the baby develops in the womb before birth. The cause is unknown, but genes may play a role.
Narrowing that occurs in the valve itself is called pulmonary valve stenosis. There may also be narrowing just before or after the valve.
The defect may occur alone or with other heart defects that are present at birth. The condition can be mild or severe.
Pulmonary valve stenosis is a rare disorder. In some cases, the problem runs in families.
Many cases of pulmonary valve stenosis are mild and do not cause symptoms. The problem is most often found in infants when a heart murmur is heard during a routine heart exam.
When the valve narrowing (stenosis) is moderate to severe, the symptoms include:
The health care provider will grade the severity of the valve stenosis to plan treatment.
Sometimes, treatment may not be needed if the disorder is mild.
When there are also other heart defects, medicines may be used to:
Help blood flow through the heart (prostaglandins)
Help the heart beat stronger
Prevent clots (blood thinners)
Remove excess fluid (water pills)
Treat abnormal heartbeats and rhythms
Percutaneous balloon pulmonary dilation (valvuloplasty) may be performed when no other heart defects are present.
This procedure is done through an artery in the groin.
The doctor sends a flexible tube (catheter) with a balloon attached to the end up to the heart. Special x-rays are used to help guide the catheter.
The balloon stretches the opening of the valve.
Some people may need heart surgery to repair or replace the pulmonary valve. The new valve can be made from different materials. If the valve cannot be repaired or replaced, other procedures may be needed.
People with mild disease rarely get worse. However, those with moderate to severe disease will get worse. The outcome is often very good when surgery or balloon dilation is successful. Other congenital heart defects may be a factor in the outlook.
Most often, the new valves can last for decades. However, some will wear out and need to be replaced.
Norman S. Kato, MD, Surgeon with the Cardiac Care Medical Group, Encino, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.