Aortic Valve Disease

Overview

What Is Aortic Valve Disease?

The aortic valve controls the opening between the left ventricle (lower heart chamber) and the main artery to the body (the aorta). With aortic valve disease, this valve does not open and close the way it should with each heartbeat.

People may experience one of several types of aortic valve disease:

  • Aortic regurgitation: When the valve doesn’t close tightly, blood can leak backward into the left ventricle instead of flowing through the aorta and into the body. Aortic regurgitation is also called aortic valve insufficiency.
  • Aortic stenosis: When the valve thickens or stiffens, it can’t open all the way. Stenosis prevents blood from flowing properly through the valve.
  • Bicuspid aortic valve: Normally, the aortic valve has three “leaflets,” or flaps that help it close. Some people are born with two leaflets that are fused together, so they have only two leaflets instead of three. This condition is called a bicuspid aortic valve.

Aurora Health Care is a leader in the region in treating aortic valve disease . We offer sophisticated, minimally invasive procedures to treat aortic valve disease very effectively, with the fastest recovery times.

Find out more about other types of heart valve disease:

Symptoms

Symptoms of Aortic Valve Disease

The most common symptom of heart valve disease is an unusual heartbeat or a heart murmur.

Other symptoms include:

  • Chest discomfort or pain, often worse with exercise
  • Shortness of breath, which worsens with exercise
  • Feeling lightheaded or faint, or actually fainting (syncope)
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Heart palpitations, or the feeling that the heartbeat is fast or fluttering
  • Irregular heart rate or rhythm (arrhythmia)
  • Swollen ankles and feet

Risk Factors

What Causes Aortic Valve Disease?

Some people are born with heart valve disease (called congenital heart valve disease). Others develop aortic valve disease later, usually because of a health problem or physical injury.

Causes of aortic valve disease include:

  • Congenital conditions: Conditions present at birth can cause aortic valve failure.
    • A bicuspid aortic valve that has only two leaflets, instead of three, can cause the valve to leak (regurgitation) or narrow (stenosis).
    • Marfan syndrome, an inherited disorder of the connective tissue, can cause aortic valve disease.
  • Infection: Certain infections may weaken the aortic valve. These include rheumatic fever (a complication of untreated strep throat) and infective endocarditis (an infection of the heart’s lining).
  • Aortic valve calcification: As you age, your heart may accumulate deposits of calcium, normally found in the blood. The calcium deposits make the aortic valve stiffer, causing stenosis, which prevents adequate blood flow.
  • Injury to the chest: An injury can cause the aorta to tear, which can widen the aortic valve and prevent it from closing properly.
  • Chronic kidney disease: Having chronic kidney disease can cause aortic stenosis.
  • High blood pressure
  • Age: By middle age, many people’s aortic valves begin to deteriorate naturally, which may cause some aortic regurgitation.

Diagnosis

Personalized Diagnosis for Aortic Valve Disease

We have the expertise to identify all types of aortic valve disease, at any stage. Rapid diagnosis means that you can receive treatment and get back to your daily activities as quickly as possible.

Doctors rely on tests and diagnostic procedures such as:

  • Physical exam: We will listen to your heart with a stethoscope to check for an irregular heartbeat or a swishing sound that indicates a heart murmur. We’ll also ask about your symptoms and family history.
  • Chest X-ray: We may use a chest X-ray to examine the internal structures of your chest.
  • Radiographic testing: Several tests can help us study your heart functions. These may include:
  • Stress testing: A stress test examines your heart while you exercise. If exercise isn’t possible for you, we can use medication to conduct a stress test.
  • Cardiac catheterization: To examine your heart’s internal structures, we may use a diagnostic procedure such as cardiac catheterization.

Learn more about heart and vascular diagnosis and testing at Aurora.

Treatment

Expert Treatment for Aortic Valve Disease

Some people need only monitoring for aortic valve disease. For others, the condition becomes more serious and requires treatment.

We are one of the nation’s leaders in heart valve repair and replacement, including transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR).

Your doctor may recommend various treatments for aortic valve disease, including:

  • Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR): In this minimally invasive procedure, we use a catheter (thin, flexible tube) to replace the damaged valve with an artificial valve. Read more about our highly successful transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) procedure.
  • Valve repair or replacement surgery: Surgeons repair or replace the damaged valves, through traditional open heart surgery or minimally invasive procedures. Aortic valve repair or replacement is a complex procedure. Heart valve surgery centers that perform high numbers of heart valve repair and replacement – like Aurora Health Care – have the most successful results.
  • Medication: Medication alone cannot treat most aortic valve disease. If you receive a replacement valve, we may prescribe medication to minimize the risk of blood clots after valve replacement.
  • Balloon valvuloplasty: Doctors thread a catheter with a small balloon on the end through a blood vessel from the groin to the aortic valve. We then inflate the balloon to stretch the heart valve. Doctors sometimes use balloon valvuloplasty to treat aortic stenosis in infants and children, or in adults who are waiting for a TAVR or are too sick for surgery.
  • New and innovative treatments: We’ve been involved in many clinical trials and new procedures to treat aortic valve disease. We have been involved in nearly all of the largest trials of replacement aortic valves. Learn more about our clinical trials and cardiovascular research.

Valvular Heart Disease Center

For more information, please give us a call. 

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