28 Aug 2021

2021 ESC/EACTS Guidelines for the management of valvular heart disease

Developed by the Task Force for the management of valvular heart disease of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) and the European Association for Cardio-Thoracic Surgery (EACTS)
Acquired Cardiac Disease


Why do we need new guidelines on valvular heart disease?

Since the publication of the previous version of the guidelines on the management of valvular heart disease (VHD) in 2017, new evidence has accumulated, particularly on the following topics:

  • Epidemiology: the incidence of the degenerative aetiology has increased in industrialized countries while, unfortunately, rheumatic heart disease is still too frequently observed in many parts of the world [1–3].
  • Current practices regarding interventions and medical management have been analysed in new surveys at the national and European level.
  • Non-invasive evaluation using three-dimensional (3D) echocardiography, cardiac computed tomography (CCT), cardiac magnetic resonance (CMR), and biomarkers plays a more and more central role.
  • New definitions of severity of secondary mitral regurgitation (SMR) based on the outcomes of studies on intervention.
  • New evidence on anti-thrombotic therapies leading to new recommendations in patients with surgical or transcatheter bioprostheses for bridging during perioperative periods and over the long term. The recommendation for non- vitamin K antagonist oral anticoagulants (NOACs) was reinforced in patients with native valvular disease, except for significant mitral stenosis, and in those with bioprostheses.
  • Risk stratification for the timing of intervention. This applies mostly to (i) the evaluation of progression in asymptomatic patients based on recent longitudinal studies mostly in aortic stenosis, and (ii) interventions in high-risk patients in whom futility should be avoided. Regarding this last aspect, the role of frailty is outlined.
  • Results and indication of intervention:

The choice of the mode of intervention: current evidence reinforces the critical role of the Heart Team, which should integrate clinical, anatomical, and procedural characteristics beyond conventional scores, and informed patient’s treatment choice.

Surgery: increasing experience and procedural safety led to expansion of indications toward earlier intervention in asymptomatic patients with aortic stenosis, aortic regurgitation or mitral regurgitation and stress the preference for valve repair when it is expected to be durable. A particular emphasis is put on the need for more comprehensive evaluation and earlier surgery in tricuspid regurgitation.

Transcatheter techniques: (i) Concerning transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI), new information from randomized studies comparing TAVI vs. surgery in low-risk patients with a follow-up of 2 years has led to a need to clarify which types of patients should be considered for each mode of intervention. (ii) Transcatheter edge-to-edge repair (TEER) is increasingly used in SMR and has been evaluated against optimal medical therapy resulting in an upgrade of the recommendation. (iii) The larger number of studies on transcatheter valve-in-valve implantation after failure of surgical bioprostheses served as a basis to upgrade its indication. (iv) Finally, the encouraging preliminary experience with transcatheter tricuspid valve interventions (TTVI) suggests a potential role of this treatment in inoperable patients, although this needs to be confirmed by further evaluation.

The new evidence described above made a revision of the recommendations necessary.