Timing of intervention in asymptomatic patients with valvular heart disease.

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Current management of valvular heart disease (VHD) seeks to optimize long-term outcome by timely intervention. Recommendations for treatment of patients with symptoms due to severe valvular disease are based on a foundation of solid evidence. However, when to intervene in asymptomatic patients remains controversial and decision requires careful individual weighing of the potential benefits against the risk of intervention and its long-term consequences. The primary rationale for earlier intervention is prevention of irreversible left ventricular (LV) myocardial changes that might result in later clinical symptoms and adverse cardiac events. A number of outcome predictors have been identified that facilitate decision-making. This review summarizes current recommendations and discusses recently published data that challenge them suggesting even earlier intervention. In adults with asymptomatic aortic stenosis (AS), emerging risk markers include very severe valve obstruction, elevated serum natriuretic peptide levels, and imaging evidence of myocardial fibrosis or increased extracellular myocardial volume. Currently, transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI) is not recommended for treatment of asymptomatic severe AS although this may change in the future. In patients with aortic regurgitation (AR), the potential benefit of early intervention in preventing LV dilation and dysfunction must be balanced against the long-term risk of a prosthetic valve, a particular concern because severe AR often occurs in younger patients with a congenital bicuspid valve. In patients with mitral stenosis, the option of transcatheter mitral balloon valvotomy tilts the balance towards earlier intervention to prevent atrial fibrillation, embolic events, and pulmonary hypertension. When chronic severe mitral regurgitation is due to mitral valve prolapse, anatomic features consistent with a high likelihood of a successful and durable valve repair favour early intervention. The optimal timing of intervention in adults with VHD is a constantly changing threshold that depends not only on the severity of valve disease but also on the safety, efficacy, and long-term durability of our treatment options.


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