Cardiovascular Conditions

Your Quality of Life and Your Cardiovascular Health

The health of your heart and vascular system is critically important to your quality of life. Your ability to work and exercise, your energy level and appetite and dozens of other aspects of your daily life are affected by your cardiovascular health. Many conditions that affect this critical system require early diagnosis and treatment to prevent serious, long-term complications.

Our Heart and Vascular Expertise

The Heart and Vascular Institute at University Health System is led by highly trained cardiologists from UT Health San Antonio. Our experience treating adults and children with cardiovascular diseases is unmatched in South Texas. We perform the most advanced procedures to treat heart and vascular conditions like these, from the most common to the most complex.

Blood Flow-Related Heart Conditions

Your heart requires oxygen-rich blood from the arteries, and your organs rely on your heart’s ability to pump blood efficiently. Life-threatening conditions like these result when those processes are compromised:

Heart Attack

A heart attack happens when your heart can't get oxygen, caused by a blockage in the arteries that lead into it. Heart attacks tend to result from coronary artery disease, a buildup of plaque inside the coronary arteries. Plaque buildup is called atherosclerosis.

Heart Failure

Heart failure, or congestive heart failure, occurs when your heart muscle doesn't pump blood efficiently. This creates a deficiency of oxygen and nutrients within your organs. Over time, the kidneys usually respond by causing the body to retain fluid and salt, creating congestion in the limbs. Narrowed arteries in your heart (coronary artery disease) or high blood pressure (hypertension) can weaken it or make it too stiff to fill and pump blood throughout your body.

Electrical Heart Conditions

Like a machine, your heart should beat regularly and predictably. When your heartbeat is irregular, or when it is either too fast or too slow, you may develop a serious heart condition over time.

Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, is a condition in which the upper chambers of your heart beat irregularly (arrhythmia). This inefficiency allows blood to pool in the heart, often leading to blood clots that are then pumped out into your body. Atrial fibrillation is the leading cause of blood clots in the brain that cause stroke. For many, it’s effectively treated with the LARIAT® procedure.

To confirm a diagnosis of AFib, our team of cardiac specialists perform a detailed history, a physical exam, an electrocardiogram (EKG) and may provide a heart rhythm (Holter) monitor to take home. Also an ultrasound of the heart (echocardiogram) may be taken to check your heart’s size and function. Important lab tests are also conducted.

If diagnosed with AFib, our medical team at the Heart and Vascular Institute will work with you to determine a personalized treatment plan. We offer an advanced hybrid treatment method – a combination of catheter ablation and minimally invasive surgery with a success rate as high as 90%.

Atrial Flutter

Unlike AFib, atrial flutter is a condition where your heart beats regularly but too quickly. Atrial flutter is a type of tachycardia. Atrial flutter makes it challenging for your heart to pump blood effectively. It can lead to congestive heart failure, heart attack or stroke.

Muscular Heart Conditions

Your heart is one of the strongest, most dependable muscles in your body. Abnormalities that affect the muscle often result in your heart’s ability to pump your blood efficiently throughout your body. These conditions may be a result:

Cardiomyopathy

This condition is caused by an abnormal heart muscle. The primary types of this condition are dilated, hypertrophic and restrictive cardiomyopathy. Each type makes it harder for your heart to deliver blood to the rest of your body. This can lead to heart failure.

Myocarditis

This condition refers to the inflammation of the middle layer of your heart wall (myocardium). Myocarditis is usually caused by a viral infection and creates chest pain, heart failure and abnormal heart rhythms. At its most severe, myocarditis affects the pumping action of your heart.

Structural Heart Conditions

Your heart has the amazing ability to heal itself, especially when you’re young. However, at times, a hole in the heart or another serious defect may become more apparent as you get older and require treatment or surgery.

Aortic Stenosis

This disease occurs when the heart's aortic valve narrows. This narrowing prevents the valve from opening fully, obstructing blood flow to the rest of your body. As a result, your heart works harder to pump blood. If you have severe aortic valve stenosis, you may need surgery to replace the valve and may be a candidate for transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR).

We also treat a number of other aortic conditions at the South Texas Aortic Center, including:

  • Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
  • Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm
  • Aortic Arch Disease
  • Aortic Dissection
  • Acute Aortic Syndrome

Atrial Septal Defect (ASD)

This defect describes a hole in the wall between your two upper chambers of your heart. This condition is present from birth (congenital) and may close during infancy or early childhood. Lasting atrial septal defects can damage your heart and lungs over time and lead to a shortened life span.

Mitral Valve Prolapse

When the valve between your heart's left upper chamber and the left lower chamber doesn't close properly, you have a condition called mitral valve prolapse. This can cause blood to leak backward into the left atrium (mitral valve regurgitation). People with severe mitral valve prolapse require valve surgery.

Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO)

Like ASD, patent foramen ovale is another congenital hole in the heart. Although it's not uncommon, you may not know you have this condition and may never need treatment for this disorder.

Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD)

This condition is similar to ASD and PFO as it describes a hole in your heart that is present when you’re born. While a small defect may close on its own, a larger VSD typically requires surgical repair early in life to prevent future complications.


Vascular Conditions

Vascular diseases can include any disease of your arteries, veins and lymph vessels to blood disorders that affect circulation. The following conditions fall under the category of vascular diseases:

Atherosclerosis

This condition is the buildup of fats, cholesterol and other substances on your artery walls (plaque). It can restrict blood flow and lead to severe cardiovascular complications. Carotid atherosclerosis refers to the presence of this condition in the arteries on either side of your neck.

Hyperlipidemia

Lipids are fats in the blood. Hyperlipidemia means your lipid levels are too high and usually points to high cholesterol and high triglyceride levels. This condition can speed up the process of atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries.

Mesenteric Disease

When one or more of your mesenteric arteries in the abdomen becomes narrow or blocked, you can experience severe abdominal pain. Over time, often quickly, the blockage can worsen, restrict blood flow and cause tissues in your intestine to die.

Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)

This common circulatory condition is the result of narrowed arteries that reduce blood flow to your limbs, usually your legs. PAD often causes significant leg pain when you walk and may lead to lower extremity disease. It is also likely to be a sign of atherosclerosis.

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS)

This group of disorders occurs when the blood vessels or nerves between your collarbone and your first rib (thoracic outlet) become compressed. TOS often causes shoulder and neck pain, and numbness in your fingers. Thoracic outlet syndrome usually results from physical trauma from a car accident or repetitive sports injuries. It also can be caused by an anatomical defect or pregnancy.

Venous Conditions

Venous conditions are a subset of vascular diseases that specifically affect the veins. Complications caused by vein diseases like these often cause profound, long-term medical conditions.

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) & Pulmonary Embolism

Deep vein thrombosis occurs when a blood clot forms in one or more of the deep veins in your body, usually in your legs. DVT usually causes leg pain and swelling. Medical conditions that affect how your blood clots may be the primary cause of DVT. This is a serious condition, because blood clots in your veins can break free, block blood flow to your lungs and cause a pulmonary embolism.

Renal Disease

This disease results from kidney dysfunction that leads to failure of the normal filtration process. As the kidneys fail to excrete the wastes from your blood adequately, they accumulate in your body. Over time, this condition leads to abnormal blood levels of fluids and electrolytes, acids, minerals and electrolytes and can lead to anemia.