Structural heart disease can be classified as cardiac disease related to the anatomical structures of the heart, including chambers, walls, and valves. These conditions may be congenital or develop later in life and can lead to complications such as compromised blood flow, heart failure, stroke, and cardiac arrest.
One category of structural heart disease are valvular diseases. Valvular disease involves at least one of the four heart valves. Each valve has corresponding leaflets that open and close during different sections of the cardiac cycle. When the functionality of a valve is compromised, whether opening or closing, it disrupts blood flow throughout the body.
Cardiac valves replacement or repair surgery may be performed through open-heart surgery through an incision in the chest, or through minimally invasive, catheter-based procedures, such as a transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR. The mitral and aortic are the most commonly replaced valves.
The left atrial appendage, or LAA, is a common sight for blood pooling and clot formation. Patients who are at high risk of bleeding or at stroke risk may receive a left atrial appendage closure device. The Watchman device is a catheter-based parachute-shaped device deployed in the left atrial appendage to seal it off from rest of the heart. The device then blocks the escape of clots, reducing the risk of stroke and allowing patients to discontinue anticoagulation therapy.
Clinical Specialist, clinical engineering, sales and sales management roles exist in the structural heart career space, with some employed at healthcare systems and others at medical device company manufacturers. These are highly rewarding and satisfying careers, but have a high barrier to entry. The typical entry point to work in the structural heart specialty would be a clinical specialist role, which is the case across the board in most cardiac medical device careers.