Aortic valve stenosis is a common condition that affects the aortic valve, which is responsible for regulating blood flow from the heart to the rest of the body. This condition occurs when the aortic valve becomes narrowed, restricting blood flow and causing the heart to work harder to pump blood. Aortic valve stenosis is most commonly seen in older adults, and it can lead to serious complications if left untreated.
Let’s take a look at the signs, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options.
Signs and Symptoms of Aortic Valve Stenosis
Aortic valve stenosis may not cause any symptoms for many years, but as the condition progresses, the following signs and symptoms may develop:
- Chest pain or discomfort: This can occur during physical activity or at rest, and may feel like pressure, tightness, or squeezing in the chest.
- Shortness of breath: This can occur during physical activity or at rest, and may worsen over time.
Fatigue: This can occur due to the heart having to work harder to pump blood through the narrowed valve.
- Heart palpitations: This can occur due to the heart trying to compensate for the decreased blood flow.
- Fainting: This can occur due to a decrease in blood flow to the brain.
- Swelling: This can occur in the ankles, feet, or legs due to a buildup of fluid.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to speak with your doctor, as they may be indicative of aortic valve stenosis or another underlying condition.
Aortic valve Stenosis Diagnosis
Diagnosis of aortic valve stenosis usually involves a combination of medical history, physical examination, and diagnostic tests.
During a physical exam, your doctor may listen to your heart with a stethoscope to check for the characteristic "murmur" sound that can indicate aortic valve stenosis. They may also check for signs of heart failure, such as fluid buildup in the lungs or swelling in the legs.
Diagnostic tests used may include:
- Echocardiogram: This is the most commonly used test for diagnosing aortic valve stenosis. It uses sound waves to create images of the heart and can show the degree of narrowing of the valve.
- Electrocardiogram (ECG): This test can help determine whether the heart is enlarged or experiencing any other abnormalities.
- Chest X-ray: This can show the size and shape of the heart and lungs, and can help identify any fluid buildup or signs of heart failure.
- Cardiac catheterization: This involves inserting a catheter into a blood vessel in the groin and threading it up to the heart to measure the pressure and blood flow across the aortic valve.
Once a diagnosis is confirmed, your doctor will work with you to develop a treatment plan based on the severity of your condition and your overall health.
The treatment for aortic valve stenosis depends on the severity of the condition and the presence of symptoms. In general, there are two main treatment options: medical management and surgical intervention.
- Medical management: If the aortic valve stenosis is mild to moderate and not causing any symptoms, your doctor may recommend regular monitoring with periodic echocardiograms. You may also be prescribed medications to manage symptoms such as high blood pressure or heart failure.
- Surgical intervention: If it's severe and/or causing symptoms, surgery may be necessary to replace the valve. There are two main types of surgical procedures:
- Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR): This is a minimally invasive procedure in which a catheter is inserted through a blood vessel in the groin or chest and threaded up to the heart. A new valve is then implanted inside the old valve, which helps to restore normal blood flow.
- Surgical aortic valve replacement (SAVR): This is an open-heart surgery in which the damaged valve is removed and replaced with a new valve made of either animal tissue or mechanical material.
Your doctor will discuss the risks and benefits of each treatment option with you and help you determine which is the best course of action based on your individual circumstances. It is important to seek treatment for aortic valve stenosis promptly, as left untreated can lead to life-threatening complications such as heart failure and sudden cardiac death.