COVID-19: Advice for individuals with Heart Valve Disease

People living with moderate or severe heart valve disease are at increased risk of complications if affected by COVID-19. Those at greatest risk are individuals with severe disease, significant ongoing symptoms or awaiting valve surgery.

It is important to remember that hospitals will continue to treat heart patients, but the current pressures may result in delays, cancellations of appointments and disruption of services.

This advice is based on information from the Heart Valve Disease Patient Council of the Global Heart Hub. Croí is a member of the Global Heart Hub.

What should I do if I am due to have heart valve surgery or have a heart valve procedure?

If you are due to have surgery you should continue to prepare for it unless told otherwise by your clinician. If your surgery is rescheduled for a later date you should monitor your symptoms closely. If your symptoms get worse and you begin to feel unwell you should report this to your GP, call your hospital medical team or in severe cases, call the emergency services.

 

What should I do if I have recently had heart valve surgery or a heart valve procedure?

Patients who have recently had a procedure have an increased risk of infections due to cuts/incisions which may be exposed to germs. The normal risk of infection for heart valve disease patients is low, but in the current situation you should take every extra measure to limit your risk of infection. If you do begin to feel unwell you should contact your hospital medical team or call the emergency services.

 

How do I reduce my risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus:

There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19 and the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. As you are at higher risk of a more serious illness if you contract coronavirus you are being advised to stay at home as much as possible and to limit your social contact.

We strongly urge you to take extra care in ensuring you follow all of the recommended precautions.

You need to be extra vigilant, be aware of your symptoms and take the recommended precautionary measures by physically distancing.

 

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

For further information on COVID-19 virus and symptoms see Croí’s advice here.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and feel you need medical help, you should follow the guidelines issued by your health authority on how best to seek medical help.

Any heart valve patient with progressive or new onset symptoms, particularly syncope (fainting, ‘passing out’ or collapse) should contact their doctor immediately.

See Croí’s health page for more information on heart valve disease.

The Croí Health Team is here as always if you need support. Contact us by email at healthteam@croi.ie or call 091-544310.

Heart Valve Disease Week at Croí!

It was a busy time for Croí this European Heart Valve Disease Awareness Week!

Team Croí were out and about in the West of Ireland with our Heart Valve Disease stand, conducting surveys on heart valve disease awareness amongst the public and providing information on the risks, diagnosis and treatment of heart valve disease. Over 300 surveys were collected which will go on to inform our work and awareness of heart valve disease in Ireland. We also identified several new and engaged patients who will join our heart valve disease patient advocates.

The burden of heart valve disease is rising as a consequence of our ageing population and increased life expectancy. About 1 in 40 adults in the general population are affected and this rises to over 1 in 10 in those over the age of 75 years. This means that heart valve disease is as common as heart failure, yet this is not widely appreciated. The goal of European Heart Valve Disease Awareness Week is to raise awareness on the prominence of heart valve disease and to encourage people to get checked for symptoms of it.

Visit Croí’s information page to learn more about heart valve disease.

European heart valve disease awareness week highlights the life and death difference a diagnosis makes

Don’t mistake heart valve disease symptoms for old age urge heart medics

4-year-old Katie Jane English is playing doctor with her grandfather, Jim Logan, and asking him to look out for the signs of Heart Valve Disease.

Top heart doctors are urging patients to know and look out for the symptoms of Heart Valve Disease and ask their GP for help in a Croí, the heart & stroke charity, campaign launched today, marking European Heart Valve Disease Awareness Week.

Symptoms such as breathlessness, dizziness, swelling of hands or feet and fatigue are sometimes mistaken to be old age when in fact they are symptoms of Heart Valve Disease (HVD).

A diseased valve can either be repaired or replaced by surgical or less invasive procedures and the patient goes on to have a more positive health outlook as a result.

However, 50% of those with the most severe form of Heart Valve Disease – aortic stenosis – will die within 2 years if not diagnosed and promptly and appropriately treated.

Irish research shows that only 4% of the target age-group (55+) knew of Heart Valve Disease.  Those interviewed were ten times more likely to be concerned about heart attack and stroke than they would be about Heart Valve Disease (11.9% and 10.4% respectively compared to 1.4%).

While HVD can impact younger people in their 40s and 50s, aging is a primary factor, and generally the incidence of HVD increases from age 70 onwards.

Symptoms are often confused or misinterpreted as normal signs of aging.  These include:

  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Swelling of ankles and feet
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Rapid or irregular heart beat
  • Heart murmur

Croí is encouraging those in the 65+ age group to be aware of these signs and symptoms and if experiencing them, to visit their GP and ask ‘could it be Heart Valve Disease?’.

“GPs can easily identify a potential issue through a stethoscope examination and research shows that approximately one third of GPs do this as a matter of course.  However, some don’t, so if you’re over 65 and concerned by symptoms, be proactive, go to your GP and ask for a stethoscope check at least once a year” said Dr Darren Mylotte, Consultant Cardiologist, Galway University Hospital and Senior Lecturer, NUIG.

The treatments for HVD are in many cases less of an ordeal than the heart surgery of former years.  In some cases, valves can be repaired and replaced either minimally invasively through a 4-5cm incision or via a catheter through an artery in the leg.  Recovery is much less painful and swifter as a result.

“The landscape of heart valve surgery has changed significantly, even in the last few years. Technology is continually allowing us to reduce the risk and pain to our patients, which in turn reduces fears related to treating a condition such as HVD.  GPs who communicate this to their patients tend to help significantly with the patient’s apprehension around seeking treatment” said Dr Samer Arnous, Coronary and Structural Interventional Cardiologist.

“Self-awareness is so important. The patient plays a significant role in his/her own treatment pathway. People should not dismiss or ignore symptoms and warning signs and simply attribute them to ‘old age’. It is vital that you discuss any concerns that you may have with your GP. Sometimes we see patients that are just too sick to treat but had they been diagnosed when they first became symptomatic, the prognosis may just have been more positive,” said Mr. Alan Soo, Lead Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgery at Galway University Hospital.

Through the European Heart Valve Awareness Week (September 16-22), Croí – the heart and stroke charity – is highlighting the prevalence of HVD amongst the 65+ age group in a bid to help patients reach and enjoy their third age with good health.  For further information please visit www.heartvalveweek.eu

“It’s crucial that both GPs and patients understand the symptoms.  Knowledge is empowering for the patient, allowing them to make informed and timely decisions which could clearly improve their health outlook for a number of years,” said Neil Johnson, CEO, Croí.