Key Points about Aortic Valve Stenosis
- Some people are born with aortic valve stenosis, while others develop the condition over time.
- If not properly treated, aortic valve stenosis may lead to other serious heart conditions, including heart failure, stroke or arrhythmia.
- Diagnosis of this condition typically involves a physical exam and imaging tests.
- Treatment for this condition may include lifestyle changes or surgery to repair or replace the aortic valve.
This condition is when the valve of the aorta (major vessel that carries blood from the heart out to the rest of the body) is narrowed. Due to this, the valve cannot open fully, which can reduce or block blood flow from your heart to the rest of the body. In people with this condition, the heart has to work harder and can weaken your heart over time.
If not properly treated, aortic valve stenosis can lead to a number of serious complications, such as:
- Arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythm)
- Blood clots
- Endocarditis (infection of the heart tissue)
- Heart failure
Aortic valve stenosis causes
Aortic valve stenosis can be caused by:
- Calcium building up on the aortic valve
- Congenital (present at birth) heart defect
- Rheumatic fever
Aortic valve stenosis risk factors
Factors that can increase your risk for developing aortic valve stenosis include:
- Being older
- Having a history of infections that affect the heart
- Having certain congenital heart conditions, including a bicuspid aortic valve
- Having chronic kidney disease
- Having diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure (hypertension)
- Having undergone radiation therapy to your chest
Aortic valve stenosis symptoms
Signs and symptoms of aortic valve stenosis can include:
- Chest pain
- Decreased appetite
- Fatigue, especially during exercise
- Heart murmur (extra sound in a heartbeat)
- Heart palpitations, or fluttering
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness in the chest, especially during exercise
- Unexplained weight loss
Aortic valve stenosis diagnosis
Your cardiologist will use one or more of the following tests to diagnose this condition:
- Complete physical exam. Your doctor will perform a comprehensive physical exam, including asking about your personal health history.
- Imaging tests. Your cardiologist may order imaging tests – such as a chest X-ray, electrocardiogram (EKG), cardiac computerized tomography (CT) scan or echocardiogram – to obtain detailed images of your heart and valves.
- Stress test. During this test, your cardiologist obtains information about how well your heart works while you are exercising.
Aortic valve stenosis treatment
Treatment for aortic valve stenosis may include:
Aortic valve repair or replacement. If your aortic valve has been badly damaged due to this condition, you may need a surgical procedure to repair or replace it. During this procedure, your cardiothoracic surgeon removes your damaged aortic valve and replaces it with another valve that is made of either pig, cow or human tissue, or from surgical-grade plastic or metal (mechanical). Valves made of tissue may only last about a decade, while mechanical valves are made to last the rest of your life.
Ongoing monitoring. If your aortic valve stenosis is mild, your cardiologist may recommend watchful monitoring. During this time, you may need to make certain lifestyle modifications, such as eating a heart-healthy diet.
When to seek care
If you experience any of these symptoms, start by voicing your concerns and symptoms to your primary care provider. From there, your doctor may suggest seeing a cardiologist for more specialized treatment.