What is structural heart disease?

Structural heart disease is a newer but rapidly growing sub-specialty in cardiovascular medicine — specifically, interventional cardiology — that focuses on the non-coronary diseases of the heart. Coronary artery disease occurs in the arteries on the outside of the heart. A heart attack may occur when these arteries become blocked. In contrast, structural heart disease encompasses the abnormalities of the non-coronary aspects of the heart, including:

• The heart muscle itself, called the myocardium.
• The layer of tissue that covers the heart, called the pericardium.
• The inner walls of the heart, which separate the heart’s chambers.
• The four valves inside the heart that regulate the flow of blood throughout the heart.
• The major vessels that carry blood to and from the heart.
• The appendages inside the heart.

Some of the diseases that fall into the category of structural heart disease are congenital, which are diseases a person is born with. Others are acquired, which means they develop in the years or decades after birth.

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