Have you been diagnosed with aortic stenosis? If so, you likely have questions about the condition and treatment options, such as valve replacement, that are available to you. No matter what valve replacement option you and your doctor choose, you can rest assured that MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute’s skilled and experienced heart care doctors will provide you with the highest quality of care.
Aortic valve stenosis is a narrowing of the aortic valve in your heart. When functioning normally, the aortic valve allows blood to flow from your heart’s left ventricle into the aorta and your body. However, if the heart is affected by aortic stenosis, the valve is unable to open properly, which forces the heart to work harder. Over time, the stenosis causes pressure to build up in your left ventricle and thickens the heart muscle. If this occurs, you may need a valve replacement.
Although your heart can compensate for aortic valve stenosis and the extra pressure for extended periods of time, eventually it will no longer be able to keep up the extra work and may cause heart failure.
Symptoms of Aortic Stenosis
Aortic valve stenosis is a slow process that can take many years, or even decades before you begin to feel the symptoms. However, at some point, the heart valve becomes so narrow that you start experiencing problems. The symptoms of aortic stenosis are typically brought on by exercise or anything that causes your heart to work harder.
As your aortic valve stenosis starts to get worse, you may experience symptoms such as:
- Chest pain, pressure or tightness
- Fainting or weakness with increased activity
- Heart palpitations
- Feeling tired
- Shortness of breath
If you begin to notice the symptoms of aortic stenosis, let your doctor know right away. If you are diagnosed with aortic stenosis, your doctor will likely recommend that you undergo a valve replacement.
Aortic Stenosis Diagnosis
Most patients are diagnosed with aortic stenosis after their doctor discovers a heart murmur during a regular physical exam. However, to be sure that the diagnosis is correct, your doctor may perform other tests to determine how well your heart is working. These tests may include:
- Cardiac catheterization
Aortic Stenosis Treatments
If you’ve been diagnosed with mild or moderate aortic valve stenosis and you aren’t experiencing symptoms, your doctor will schedule regular appointments to monitor your heart. In this case, you will probably not need surgery until your stenosis is severe or you will greatly benefit from surgery.
If you’ve been diagnosed with severe aortic valve stenosis, your doctor will likely recommend you undergo valve replacement surgery. Valve replacement is typically performed during open-heart surgery unless you are unable to undergo the procedure for any reason, such as other health issues or a high-risk of failure or death. If you’re unable to undergo traditional open-heart surgery, transcatheter aortic valve replacement may be an option for you.
Treatments for aortic valve stenosis include:
- Balloon Valvuloplasty - A procedure that stretches scarred valves to increase blood flow.
- Aortic valve repair surgery - This surgery corrects aortic insufficiency; the damaged valve is strengthened and shortened to help the valve close more tightly.
- Transcatheter aortic valve replacement - Corrects both aortic stenosis and insufficiency for patients who cannot undergo traditional surgery, due to other conditions.