The most common valvular heart disease is aortic valve stenosis, also called aortic stenosis. Valvular heart disease occurs when one of the four heart valves becomes damaged. Although this can happen in the mitral, tricuspid and pulmonary valves, aortic stenosis (AS) occurs when the valve that controls blood flow between the aorta and the heart narrows. The aortic valve allows the oxygen-rich blood to be released from the left ventricle into the body through the aorta.
When Does Aortic Stenosis Occur?
It is possible that AS may be present at birth, but the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reported that it is much more prevalent in the aging population. When AS appears in newborns and infants, the pulmonary or aortic heart valves don’t form properly and congenital heart valve disease is the result.
However, as medical advances now allow people to live longer, the number of aortic stenosis cases has increased dramatically among the elderly. For them, AS is a common cause of sudden death. According to NIH, the disease is degenerative and is not very prevalent in those ages sixty and under. After age eighty, the likelihood of aortic sclerosis increases to ten percent.
Calcium that flows in the bloodstream may create deposits over time. These accumulated deposits damage the aorta by causing it to become stiff, blocking the proper flow of blood. This is more likely to occur in older people because calcium has had decades to work on the valve tissues.
How Aortic Stenosis Happens
When blood does not flow out of the heart properly, or when the heart valves “leak,” this is called regurgitation. Blood may return when the valve-flaps (leaflets) are closing or it could flow back in when the leaflets are closed. The result can be an overworked heart muscle because it requires more effort to get oxygen-filled blood out to the body.
Stenosis happens when the leaflets don’t open all the way due to stiffening of the valve flap. The flap can also become thicker, in addition to the stiffness, to create stenosis. Blood is prevented from flowing out properly and, in some cases, stenosis and regurgitation can occur simultaneously.
Many adults diagnosed with AS show no symptoms until the condition is dangerously imminent. When symptoms do appear, common signs may be breathlessness, chest pains and the appearance of a heart murmur. Additional symptoms may be fainting, heart palpitations, noticeably “heavy” heartbeats or a sensation of a pounding heart. A reduction in activity because of the feeling of exertion may be a sign of AS, too.
Aortic Stenosis is detected in children when unusual amounts of fatigue or breathing problems appear. In addition, inadequate feeding or the inability to gain weight may also be symptoms.
A cardiologist should be advised if any symptoms occur. Aortic stenosis can be diagnosed by examination and methods such as an echocardiogram.
If the AS is detected early and there are few symptoms, a cardiologist may suggest monitoring the condition until such time as other options are needed. When they are, surgery is a common treatment. Aortic valve repair or replacement will allow blood to flow properly again.
A cardiovascular surgeon can repair damaged valves by adding or reshaping tissue to improve the valve’s productivity. One repair method, valvuloplasty, uses a balloon catheter to restore the valve.
Repair is often the first choice because the probability of infection is lower. In some cases, repair may be too dangerous or complicated. Then, a valve replacement is required. Valves can be replaced with either a manufactured valve or a biological valve. The decision on the appropriate procedure is carefully considered by the cardiovascular surgeon.
To learn more about aortic valve stenosis treatment, log on to vascularhealthclinics.org.