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Valvular heart diseases
Potential role of fibrosis imaging in severe valvular heart disease
  1. Philippe Debonnaire1,2,
  2. Victoria Delgado1,
  3. Jeroen J Bax1
  1. 1Department of Cardiology, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, The Netherlands
  2. 2Department of Cardiology, AZ Sint-Jan Bruges, Bruges, Belgium
  1. Correspondence to Professor Jeroen J Bax, Department of Cardiology, Leiden University Medical Centre, Albinusdreef 2, Leiden 2333 ZA, The Netherlands; j.j.bax{at}lumc.nl

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Learning objectives

  • Aortic stenosis and mitral regurgitation cause respectively left ventricular pressure and volume overload and induce ultrastructural changes of the myocardial extracellular matrix with fibrosis formation.

  • Myocardial fibrosis leads to increased left ventricular stiffness, diastolic dysfunction and subclinical systolic dysfunction in the early stages of aortic stenosis and mitral regurgitation preceeding reduction in left ventricular ejection fraction and left ventricular remodeling.

  • Advances in non-invasive imaging techniques (echocardiography, magnetic resonance and nuclear imaging) have permitted direct and indirect assessment of left ventricular fibrosis and early detection of structural and functional left ventricular abnormalities in aortic stenosis and mitral regurgitation.

Curriculum topic: Valvular heart disease

Currently, the most encountered valve diseases include aortic stenosis (AS) and mitral regurgitation (MR); data from population based studies have shown that approximately 9% of individuals aged 65 years or more have either MR or AS.1 w1 While indications for surgery are well defined in symptomatic patients, the optimal timing of surgery in asymptomatic severe AS or MR remains controversial. Currently, surgical intervention is considered in the presence of reduced left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF), left ventricular (LV) dilatation, pulmonary hypertension, reduced exercise capacity, increased plasma concentrations of biomarkers (eg, N-terminal pro-brain natriuretic peptide (NT-proBNP)), and arrhythmias (eg, atrial fibrillation), since all these variables are associated with worse prognosis if treated medically.w2 w3 However, most of these variables are encountered only when AS or MR have progressed significantly, leading to suboptimal clinical outcomes after surgery.w2 w3

Accordingly, markers that could identify early structural and functional abnormalities of the LV are needed to potentially facilitate the decision for timing of surgery, thereby improving clinical outcomes. In both AS and MR, ultrastructural changes of the LV with expansion of the extracellular matrix and fibrosis formation may occur due to pressure and volume overload, respectively.w4 w5 Fibrosis causes increased LV stiffness, leading to …

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