What is aortic valve stenosis?
Aortic valve stenosis is a narrowing of the aortic valve . The aortic valve allows blood to flow from the heart's lower left chamber (ventricle) into the aorta and to the body. Stenosis prevents the valve from opening properly, forcing the heart to work harder to pump blood through the valve. This causes pressure to build up in the left ventricle and thickens the heart muscle.
Your heart can make up for aortic valve stenosis and the extra pressure for a long time. But at some point, it won't be able to keep up the extra effort of pumping blood through the narrowed valve. This can lead to
What causes aortic valve stenosis?
can cause aortic valve stenosis include:
- Calcium buildup on the aortic valve. As you
age, calcium can build up on the valve, making it hard and thick. This buildup
happens over time, so symptoms usually don't appear until after age 65.
- A heart defect you were born
- Rheumatic fever
endocarditis. These infections can damage the valve.
What are the symptoms?
Aortic valve stenosis is a
slow process. For many years, even decades, you will not feel any symptoms. But
at some point, the valve will likely become so narrow (often one-fourth of its
normal size) that you start having problems. Symptoms are often brought on
by exercise, when the heart has to work harder.
As aortic valve
stenosis gets worse, you may have symptoms such as:
- Chest pain or pressure (angina). You
may have a heavy, tight feeling in your chest.
- Feeling dizzy or
- Feeling tired and being
short of breath.
- A feeling that your heart is
pounding, racing, or beating unevenly (palpitations).
If you start to notice any of these symptoms, let your
doctor know right away. If you have symptoms, you need treatment. By the time
you have symptoms, your condition probably is serious. If you have symptoms,
you also have a high risk of sudden death.
How is aortic valve stenosis diagnosed?
people find out they have it when their doctor hears a heart murmur during a
regular physical exam. To be sure of the diagnosis, your doctor may want you to
echocardiogram, which can show moving pictures of your
heart. You may have other tests to help your doctor judge how well your heart
How is it treated?
If you don't
have symptoms, your doctor will see you regularly to check your heart. You
probably will not have surgery. Unless you have symptoms, or tests show that the heart's pumping action is getting weak, surgery is likely to
be more risky than the disease.
If you have symptoms, you
probably need surgery right away. Surgery to replace the aortic valve is the
best treatment for most people. View a
slideshow on aortic valve replacement surgery . Some young people or people who cannot
have open-heart surgery may have another procedure called balloon valvuloplasty
to enlarge the valve opening.
If you don't have surgery after you
start having symptoms, you may die suddenly or develop heart failure. Surgery can help you have a more normal life span.