Services

Center for Valvular Heart Disease

Memorial Medical Center has provided comprehensive heart care since 1973. Recognized as a leader and innovator in heart and vascular technology, Memorial performs hundreds of open heart surgeries each year.

Our programs focus on reducing the incidence of cardiac and vascular disease. Memorial Heart and Vascular Services brings together the area’s top heart and vascular experts with access to the very latest technology at a medical facility that excels in patient-centered care.

At Memorial’s Center for Valvular Heart Disease, you are the “heart” of our team. To schedule an appointment, please call 217-788-4578.

What is valvular heart disease?

Valvular Heart Disease occurs when the valves that direct blood through your heart’s chambers do not open or close correctly, resulting in less blood flowing through. When you have Valvular Heart Disease, two things can occur, both of which makes it harder for your heart to pump blood to the rest of your body:

  • stenosis, which means a valve does not open all the way, resulting in the blood flowing through a smaller than normal opening
  • regurgitation, which means a valve does not close all the way, resulting in the blood flowing backward or forward through the valve instead of only forward

Abnormal valves also can cause an irregular heartbeat or blood clots to form in the heart.

Valvular Heart Disease can be caused by a birth defect in the valve, calcium or plaque in the valve, an infection, valve degeneration or IV drug use. Symptoms can include increased shortness of breath, chest pain, swelling of legs or
ankles, tiredness, dizziness, fainting and palpitations.

How is valvular heart disease treated?

Once stenosis or regurgitation reaches a certain point, surgery often is recommended to repair or replace the improperly functioning heart valves.

  • Valve replacement involves a surgeon removing the damaged valve and replacing it with an artificial valve. Valves can be made of animal heart tissues or be mechanical.
  • Valve repair involves a reconstruction of the damaged valve by a variety of methods which may include removing or moving part of the valve tissue, inserting a ring around the valve to tighten the area around it or other surgical techniques.
How do I know if I'm a good candidate?

Your doctor will order an echocardiogram to see how well your heart valves are working. If surgery seems like the best treatment for your condition, a surgeon will evaluate you and take into consideration your age, health, lifestyle and ability to take blood thinner medication before making recommendations about the best treatment option for you.

How is heart valve surgery performed?

In most cases, heart valve surgery can be performed less invasively than traditional open heart surgeries. At Memorial, we offer a minimally invasive valve surgery called a ministernotomy. This involves a three-inch incision either at the top or bottom of the breast bone, depending on which valve is being treated. Advantages of this type of surgery include:

  • less trauma to the body
  • less blood loss during surgery
  • less scarring
  • less pain at the incision site
  • shorter hospital stay
  • quicker recovery
Why choose Memorial?

Memorial Medical Center and its physician partners are committed to high-quality, patient-centered care. In pursuit of our mission to improve the health of the people and communities we serve, we have a committed heart team of expertly trained, highly experienced professionals who have access to cutting-edge technology.

Meet our Cardiothoracic Surgeon

Dr. Christina Vassileva, M.D. , is a board-certified surgeon with SIU HealthCare who practices all aspects of cardiothoracic surgery and specializes in minimally invasive valve surgery, including mitral valve repair. She is an assistant professor of cardiothoracic surgery at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine.

Prior to joining SIU, Vassileva completed her cardiothoracic fellowship at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School. She completed her general surgery residency and received her medical degree at Johns Hopkins Medical School in Baltimore.