What is aortic
Aortic valve stenosis occurs when the aortic valve narrows
and doesn’t open as it should. This limits the amount of blood pumped from your
heart into, and then out of, the aorta — the main artery of the body. The
aortic valve is a key valve in the body’s blood circulation system.
are the symptoms of aortic valve stenosis?
Aortic valve stenosis generally produces symptoms only once it
progresses. In the beginning, you may not have symptoms.
You may experience symptoms of severe aortic valve stenosis once
the condition has progressed to the symptomatic stage. Symptoms of severe
aortic valve stenosis include:
- chest pain as the heart strains to pump enough blood
through the compromised valve
- feeling tired after exertion, as when you exercise or
- feeling short of breath, especially after exertion
- heart palpitations, or abnormal heartbeats
- a heart murmur, which is an abnormal swooshing sound produced
by the heart as it beats
What are the symptoms of aortic valve stenosis in children and infants?
Infants and children may have different symptoms from adults,
or they may not appear to display any symptoms at all. If they do display
symptoms, these might include:
- inability to put on weight
- not feeding well
- becoming easily fatigued
In severe cases, an infant may have major breathing
difficulties that develop within weeks of birth. Mild cases have the potential to
worsen as the child gets older.
What causes aortic
Genetics and certain health conditions may prevent the
aortic valve from completing its proper functions. The aortic valve opens and
closes every time your heart beats. This continuous action occurs every second
of your life.
Aortic valve stenosis may be present at birth. When it is,
the flaps, or “leaflets,” of the aortic valve are irregularly formed. These
leaflets make up the opening of the aortic valve. When functioning properly, they
fit together tightly when closed. Children born with aortic valve stenosis
usually have one of the following irregularities in their aortic valve
- All three leaflets are not present.
- The leaflets do not separate properly.
- The leaflets are too thick to completely open or
fever is one of the most common causes of heart valve problems. Rheumatic
fever may affect many parts of the body, including the:
Rheumatic fever can occur in adults and children who have,
or have had, strep throat. Strep throat is a
contagious condition caused by Streptococcus
Aortic valve stenosis most often occurs in older adults. Age-related
aortic valve stenosis is the most common form of the condition, according to
Heart Association. It’s caused by caused by calcification or scarring of
the aortic valve. It usually begins sometime after the age of 60, but people may
not begin to experience symptoms until age 70 or 80.
Calcium is an important mineral needed for strong bones.
However, the mineral may present problems in your heart if it deposits in the
aortic valve. Calcium deposits usually affect the leaflets of the aortic valve.
Calcium deposits can prevent the aortic valve from properly opening and
closing. These deposits often increase in the aortic valve as we age due to
scarring and calcium buildup.
Improperly functioning aortic valve leaflets may also allow
blood to leak back into the left ventricle after it enters the aorta. This is
called valvular insufficiency, or regurgitation.
is at risk for aortic valve stenosis?
There are several risk factors that may affect you or
someone in your family.
Men have a higher risk of aortic valve stenosis than women.
The condition occurs most often in men between the ages of 30 and 60.
Children born with either malformed valve leaflets or fewer
than three leaflets will have problems with normal blood flow through the
Rheumatic fever can produce significant problems with the
valve leaflets. Scar tissue from the disease can make the leaflets hard or even
fused. Rheumatic fever damages:
- heart tissue
- coronary arteries
How is aortic valve stenosis diagnosed?
After reporting your symptoms to your general doctor, you
may be referred to a cardiologist, who is a heart specialist. Your cardiologist
will check your physical condition with a thorough examination. This includes
listening to your heart for any abnormal sounds. You may need imaging tests to
show what is going on inside your heart.
Here are some of the imaging tests your doctor may order:
(magnetic resonance imaging) scan: creates highly detailed images of internal body
- CT (computed tomography) scan: creates
X-ray: creates images of the
heart, lungs, airways, blood vessels, and bones in your spine and chest
- Echocardiogram: provides video images
of your heart
- Cardiac catheterization:
uses dye to highlight any blockages in the heart
is aortic valve stenosis treated?
There are no specific medications to fix aortic valve
stenosis because the condition is irreversible once it occurs. Your doctor can
prescribe medication to treat the problems caused by the condition or the
health issues that produced the condition in the first place. Surgery may be
able to repair or replace the valve.
Although medication can’t cure aortic valve stenosis, your
doctor may prescribe drugs to manage symptoms or reduce the burden on your
heart. Some medications include:
Rheumatic fever requires antibiotics to keep any infection from advancing and
causing heart damage.
pressure medications: Beta blockers
channel blockers can help lower your blood pressure.
thinners such as Coumadin may be necessary.
Medications to manage your heart’s rhythm, called anti-arrhythmics, are
Your doctor may recommend a procedure or surgery to repair
or replace the damaged valve. A minimally invasive procedure to repair the
valve is called valvuloplasty. This procedure can be performed through a soft
thin tube called a catheter, which is less invasive than traditional surgery. In
this type of procedure, the surgeon inserts a long, thin catheter with a tiny
balloon at the end into a vein in your groin or arm. The surgeon guides the
tube into your heart and inflates the balloon. Once the valve is opened, the surgical
team removes the balloon and catheter. The procedure is minimally invasive, and
recovery time is shorter than the alternative open-heart surgery.
Your surgeon may decide that your damaged valve must be
replaced. This requires open-heart surgery. Your surgeon may insert a
mechanical valve or a valve from a cow or pig. Sometimes valves from human
cadavers are used. Open-heart surgery requires a much longer recovery period.
Your health may improve dramatically once you receive treatment.
Surgical treatments for aortic valve stenosis have high rates of success. Your
outlook depends on a combination of factors:
- how long you have lived with the condition
- the extent of damage to your heart
- any complications that may arise from your
the symptoms of aortic valve stenosis
Sometimes, aortic valve stenosis is not a congenital defect,
meaning you were not born with the condition. If this is the case, there are
steps you can take to ease the burden on your heart:
- Eat a healthy diet low in saturated fat.
- Exercise regularly.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Abstain from smoking.
- Report any abnormal health issues to your doctor.
- Visit your doctor for any severe sore throat, to
prevent rheumatic fever.
- Practice good dental hygiene, as dental
infections can travel through the bloodstream and damage the heart valves and
Healthy lifestyle habits may help reduce the burden on your
heart. Be sure to discuss any related health concerns with your doctor.