What is the aortic valve?
The aortic valve is the main outlet valve of the heart and allows blood to exit with every heartbeat. Normal aortic valves have three leaflets, but around 1 in 50 people are born with an abnormal heart valve which has two leaflets, known as a bicuspid aortic valve.
What is aortic stenosis?
Aortic stenosis is a condition where the aortic valve becomes thickened and is less able to open well. As a result, the blood flow across the valve is abnormal and means that a heart murmur can be heard when your heart is listened to by a stethoscope.
The most common cause of aortic stenosis is age-related wear and tear (degeneration) and as a result most people who have the condition are over 60. In people born with an abnormal ‘bicuspid’ valve, the valve can become thickened (stenosed) at a younger age, and people with a bicuspid valve can be affected at any stage in their lives.
What are my treatment options?
Aortic stenosis is a long term (chronic) condition. It can be graded into three categories; mild, moderate and severe.
Regardless of the severity of aortic stenosis, if you have no symptoms then it is likely that the Heart Valve Team will keep you under review with a clinic visit and echocardiogram (echo or cardiac ultrasound) on a regular basis. Patients with aortic stenosis are often followed up for many years without symptoms.
If the valve is severely narrowed (severe aortic stenosis) and you have symptoms then you may be referred for aortic valve surgery, which can be performed as either open heart surgery (link to cardiac surgery) or keyhole valve replacement (link to TAVI).
Due to the importance of symptoms in patients with aortic stenosis, you must let your Healthcare Professional know if you develop symptoms in between clinic appointments.
Sometimes in addition to being narrowed, the aortic valve can also be leaky (aortic regurgitation). Patients with both aortic valve narrowing (stenosis) and leaking (regurgitation) have a condition called mixed aortic valve disease.
Is aortic stenosis associated with any other conditions?
In patients with a bicuspid aortic valve (hyperlink to bicuspid aortic valve page) , there can also be abnormalities of the aorta, and sometimes in addition to undergoing a regular echocardiogram you may also undergo regular CT or MRI scans.
Lifestyle issues in aortic stenosis
As with any type of heart disease, it is important that you follow a healthy diet, keep your weight within a normal range and do not smoke. Most patients with aortic stenosis will be encouraged to take regular gentle exercise but you should check this with your doctor. If you are planning pregnancy, you should discuss this with your doctor first and let them know immediately if you become pregnant. All patients will heart valve disease should visit their dentist on a regular basis to ensure good dental hygiene.
Symptoms in aortic stenosis
If you experience any new symptoms between clinic appointments it is important to let your Healthcare Professional know.
IMPORTANT SYMPTOMS TO BE AWARE OF:
- Increasing shortness of breath
- Severe or increasing ankle swelling
- Chest pain or tightness
- Blackouts/lightheadedness (especially on exertion)
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat (palpitations)
- Difficulty exercising (not being able to do as much for as long)