Aortic Valve Stenosis
Your heart contains four valves – the tricuspid, pulmonary, mitral and aortic valves. They function like swinging doors, opening and closing to allow blood to flow throughout your heart and body. The aortic valve closes the left ventricle of the heart and opens to allow oxygenated blood to flow to the rest of the body.
Aortic valve stenosis occurs when the valve narrows, resulting in a reduction of blood flow, which forces your heart to work harder to pump blood throughout your body. Over time, this can weaken your heart and eventually lead to heart failure or other conditions.
Aortic valve stenosis may be brought on by a congenital condition, such as a bicuspid heart valve; rheumatic fever; or calcium build-up on the valve, which can occur with age as your heart valves accumulate calcium deposits – a mineral found in your blood.
Dr. Steven Weiss discusses advances in heart surgery, including TAVR: Transaortic Valve Replacement.
Signs and Symptoms of Aortic Valve Stenosis
Many people who live with aortic valve stenosis may not experience any symptoms for years until the condition becomes severe. Once it progresses, signs and symptoms could include:
- Chest pain or tightness
- Abnormal heart sounds, such as a heart murmur heard through a stethoscope
- Shortness of breath
- Fainting, dizziness or lightheadedness
- Difficulty exercising
If you are symptomatic, you must undergo treatment as soon as possible. Without aortic valve repair or replacement, 50 percent of patients will not survive more than an average of 2 years after they start having symptoms.
Diagnosing Aortic Valve Stenosis
Aortic valve stenosis is most often diagnosed using an echocardiogram, but the following tests may also be recommended by your health care provider:
- Exercise stress testing
- Left cardiac catheterization
- MRI of the heart
- Transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE)
Risks of Severe Aortic Stenosis
Eventually, your heart will get weaker, increasing your risk of heart failure. Severe aortic stenosis is a very serious problem. Without aortic valve replacement, 50 percent of patients will not survive more than an average of 2 years after they start having symptoms.
Aortic Stenosis Treatment Options
Currently, there is no medicine to treat aortic stenosis; however, your doctor may prescribe medication for symptom management.
Surgical Aortic Valve Replacement
Open heart surgery for aortic valve replacement is where a cardiac surgeon accesses your heart through an incision in your chest, called a sternotomy. The surgeon will remove the damaged heart valve and replace it with an artificial valve. A heart-lung bypass machine keeps blood pumping to your body while the surgeon replaces your valve. Patients may need to stay in the hospital for a week or more before beginning their recovery.
Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR)
TAVR is a procedure to replace a diseased aortic valve without open-heart surgery. During the procedure, an interventional cardiologist and a cardiothoracic surgeon work together to place an expandable heart valve into the body with a tube-based delivery system (catheter), which allows the valve to be inserted through a small incision in areas such as your groin or chest. The new heart valve is then expanded within the existing diseased valve. The TAVR care team use guidance from x-ray and echocardiography to place and test the new valve. Typically, this procedure takes approximately 1 hour compared to 4 or more hours in open-heart surgery and the average hospital stay is 2 to 4 days.
Choosing the Best Treatment Option for You
Your heart care team will evaluate you for all treatment options available. They will consider multiple factors when deciding the best treatment option for you. Your care team will consider the following:
- Your medical history
- Your age
- Your current health status
- Your overall heart health
Each case that is recommended for TAVR therapy goes before a panel of experts to help decide the best, safest approach for your procedure.
Request an Appointment
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