What is an Aortic Valve Stenosis
Aortic valve stenosis is a narrowing of the aortic valve in the heart. The aortic valve opens and closes to regulate blood flow between the left side of the heart (left ventricle) and the artery that leads away from the heart (aorta).
When the aortic valve becomes narrow, it is difficult for the heart to pump blood out to the body, which causes the heart to work harder. The extra work can weaken the heart muscle over time.
Aortic valve stenosis can range from mild to severe. If it is not treated, it can become more severe over time and lead to heart failure.
4 Interesting Facts of Aortic Valve Stenosis
- Obstruction of blood flow caused by narrowing of aortic valve from left ventricle into aorta
- May be associated with dyspnea, angina, or syncope
- Similar to mitral regurgitation, aortic stenosis is associated with systolic murmur; however, this typically has peak intensity in late systole, is heard best over the second right intercostal space, and radiates to the carotid arteries
- Differentiated based on history, physical examination, and echocardiographic findings
What are the causes?
Aortic Valve Stenosis may be caused by:
- Buildup of calcium around and on the aortic valve. This can occur with aging. This is the most common cause of aortic valve stenosis.
- A heart problem that developed in the womb (birth defect).
- Rheumatic fever.
- Radiation to the chest.
What increases the risk?
You may be more likely to develop Aortic Valve Stenosis if:
- You are older than age 65.
- You were born with an abnormal bicuspid valve.
What are the symptoms of Aortic Valve Stenosis?
You may not have any symptoms until your Aortic Valve Stenosis becomes severe. It may take 10–20 years for mild or moderate aortic valve stenosis to become severe. Symptoms may include:
- Shortness of breath. This may get worse during physical activity.
- Feeling unusually weak and tired (fatigue).
- Extreme discomfort in the chest, neck, or arm during physical activity (angina).
- A heartbeat that is irregular or faster than normal (palpitations).
- Dizziness or fainting. This may happen when you get physically tired or after you take certain heart medicines, such as nitroglycerin.
How is this diagnosed?
This condition may be diagnosed with:
- A physical exam.
- Echocardiogram. This is a type of imaging test that uses sound waves (ultrasound) to make images of your heart. There are two kinds of this test that may be used.
- Transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE). For this type, a wand-like tool (transducer) is moved over your chest to create ultrasound images that are recorded by a computer.
- Transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE). For this type, a flexible tube (probe) is inserted down the part of the body that moves food from your mouth to your stomach (esophagus). The heart and the esophagus are close to each other. Your health care provider will use the probe to take clear, detailed pictures of the heart.
- Cardiac catheterization. For this procedure, a small, thin tube (catheter) is passed through a large vein in your neck, groin, or arm. The catheter is used to get information about arteries, structures, blood pressure, and oxygen levels in your heart.
- Stress tests. These are tests that evaluate the blood supply to your heart and your heart’s response to exercise.
You may work with a health care provider who specializes in the heart (cardiologist) for diagnosis and treatment.
How is this treated?
Treatment depends on how severe your condition is and what your symptoms are. You will need to have your heart checked regularly to make sure that your condition is not getting worse or causing serious problems. Treatment may also include:
to replace your aortic valve. This is the most common treatment for aortic
valve stenosis, and it is the only treatment to cure the condition.
Several types of surgeries are available. The surgery may be done:
- Through a large incision over your heart (open-heart surgery).
- Through small incisions, using a flexible tube called a catheter (transcatheter aortic valve replacement, TAVR).
- Medicines that help to keep your heart rate regular.
- Medicines that thin your blood (anticoagulants) to prevent blood clots.
- Antibiotic medicines to help prevent infection.
If your condition is mild, you may only need regular follow-up visits for monitoring.
Follow these instructions at home:
- Limit alcohol intake to no more than 1 drink a day for nonpregnant women and 2 drinks a day for men. One drink equals 12 oz of beer, 5 oz of wine, or 1½ oz of hard liquor.
- Do notuse any products that contain nicotine or tobacco, such as cigarettes and e-cigarettes. If you need help quitting, ask your health care provider.
- Work with your health care provider to manage your blood pressure and cholesterol.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
Eating and drinking
- Eat a heart-healthy diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat or nonfat dairy.
- Limit how much caffeine you drink. Caffeine can affect your heart’s rate and rhythm.
foods that are:
- High in salt (sodium), saturated fat, or sugar.
- Canned or highly processed.
Follow instructions from your health care provider about any other eating or drinking restrictions.
regularly and return to your normal activities as told by your health care
provider. Ask your health care provider what amount and type of physical
activity is safe for you.
- If your aortic valve stenosis is mild, you may only need to avoid very intense physical activity, such as heavy weight lifting.
- The more severe your aortic valve stenosis is, the more activities you may need to avoid.
If you are taking blood thinners:
- Before you take any medicines that contain aspirin or NSAIDs, talk with your health care provider. These medicines increase your risk for dangerous bleeding.
- Take your medicine exactly as told, at the same time every day.
- Avoid activities that could cause injury or bruising, and follow instructions about how to prevent falls.
- Wear a medical alert bracelet or carry a card that lists what medicines you take.
- Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your health care provider.
- If you were prescribed an antibiotic, take it as told by your health care provider. Do not stop taking the antibiotic even if you start to feel better.
- If you are a woman and you plan to become pregnant, talk with your health care provider before you become pregnant.
- Before you have any type of medical or dental procedure or surgery, tell all health care providers that you have aortic valve stenosis. This may affect the treatment that you receive.
- Keep all follow-up visits as told by your health care provider. This is important.
Contact a health care provider if:
- You have a fever.
Get help right away if:
develop any of the following symptoms:
- Chest pain.
- Chest tightness.
- Shortness of breath.
- Trouble breathing.
- You feel light-headed.
- You feel like you might faint.
- Your heartbeat is irregular or faster than normal.
These symptoms may represent a serious problem that is an emergency. Do not wait to see if the symptoms will go away. Get medical help right away. Call your local emergency services (911 in the U.S.). Do not drive yourself to the hospital.
- Aortic valve stenosis is a narrowing of the aortic valve in the heart. The aortic valve opens and closes to regulate blood flow between the left side of the heart (left ventricle) and the artery that leads away from the heart (aorta).
- Aortic valve stenosis can range from mild to severe. If it is not treated, it can become more severe over time and lead to heart failure.
- Treatment depends on how severe your condition is and what your symptoms are. You will need to have your heart checked regularly to make sure that your condition is not getting worse or causing serious problems.
- Exercise regularly and return to your normal activities as told by your health care provider. Ask your health care provider what amount and type of physical activity is safe for you.