Aortic Stenosis

Aortic stenosis, or aortic valve stenosis, is a narrowing of the aortic valve. When the aortic valve is narrowed, the valve does not open and close very well. This restricts blood flow between the left side of the heart and the aorta (the large artery which takes blood to the rest of the body). This restriction makes it hard for your heart to pump blood. This extra work can weaken your heart and can lead to heart failure.

CAUSES

Causes of aortic valve stenosis can vary. Some of these can include:

  • Calcium deposits on the aortic valve. Calcium can buildup on the aortic valve and make it stiff. This cause of aortic stenosis is most common in people over the age of 65.

  • Congenital heart defect. This can occur during the development of the fetus and can result in an aortic valve defect.

  • Rheumatic fever. Rheumatic fever is a bacterial infection that can develop from a strep throat infection. The bacteria from rheumatic fever can attach themselves to the valve. This can cause scarring on the aortic valve, causing it to become narrow.

SYMPTOMS

Symptoms of aortic valve stenosis develop when the valve disease is severe. Symptoms can include:

  • Shortness of breath, especially with physical activity.

  • Feeling tired (fatigue).

  • Chest pain (angina) or tightness.

  • Feeing your heart race or beat funny (heart palpitations).

  • Dizziness or fainting.

DIAGNOSIS

Aortic stenosis is diagnosed through:

  • A physical exam and symptoms.

  • A heart murmur.

  • Echocardiography. This test uses sound waves to produce images of your heart.

TREATMENT

  • Surgery is the treatment for aortic valve stenosis.

  • Surgery may not be needed right away. Surgery is necessary when narrowing of the aortic valve becomes severe, and symptoms develop or become worse.

  • Medications cannot reverse aortic valve stenosis.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • If you have aortic stenosis, you many need to avoid strenuous physical activity. Talk with your caregiver about what types of activities you should avoid.

  • If you are a woman with aortic valve stenosis and are of child-bearing age, talk to your caregiver before you become pregnant.

  • If you become pregnant, you will need to be monitored by your obstetrician and cardiologist throughout your pregnancy, labor and delivery, and after delivery.

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You develop chest pain or tightness.

  • You develop shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.

  • You develop lightheadedness or fainting.

  • You have heart palpitations or skipped heartbeats.