Aortic Valve Stenosis

Your Care Explained > Conditions and Diagnoses : Aortic Valve Stenosis

Aortic valve stenosis is the narrowing or obstruction of the heart’s aortic valve, which prevents it from opening properly and blocks the flow of blood from the left lower chamber of the heart to the aorta.

It is less common in women than in men and occurs primarily in women over age 70. Women with congenital aortic valve stenosis who become pregnant should be closely monitored because carrying and delivering a baby put an extra strain on the heart.

Causes of Aortic Valve Stenosis

Aortic valve stenosis may be present from birth, or may develop later in life. It is commonly the result of rheumatic fever, a complication of untreated strep throat. Calcification of the valve, which occurs with age, can also cause aortic valve stenosis.

Symptoms of Aortic Valve Stenosis

People with aortic valve stenosis may not have any symptoms until later in the course of the disease. When symptoms occur, they may include chest pain, palpitations, breathlessness, weakness or dizziness.

Diagnosing Aortic Valve Stenosis

The first sign of aortic valve stenosis might come during an exam with a stethoscope, when the doctor hears a click or murmur caused by the turbulence of the blood flow through the valve. A weak pulse in the neck is another sign of aortic valve stenosis. The diagnosis is usually confirmed by electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) and echocardiography.

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Treating Aortic Valve Stenosis

If you have no symptoms or symptoms are mild, your doctor may monitor you through regular checkups and periodic echocardiograms. Moderate symptoms can often be controlled with medications that ease the heart’s burden, including diuretics, beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, vasodilators and digoxin.

Surgery may be necessary when symptoms are severe. Open surgery on the malfunctioning valve can involve cutting calcified flaps so they open more easily; remodeling valve tissue that has enlarged; or inserting prosthetic rings to help narrow a dilated valve. When heart valves are severely malformed or destroyed, they may need to be replaced with a new mechanism. Replacement valve mechanisms fall into two categories: tissue (biologic) valves, which include animal valves and donated human aortic valves, and mechanical valves, which can be metal, plastic or another artificial material.

Date Last Modified: January 21, 2011

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