About Aortic Valve Stenosis
The aortic valve sits between the lower left chamber of your heart, called the left ventricle, and major blood vessel called the aorta. The aorta is a canal that releases oxygen rich blood from the heart to nourish your body.
The aortic valve acts like a gatekeeper. It opens to release blood from the left ventricle and closes to keep any of the blood from washing backward.
Aortic Valve Stenosis
Sometimes, people are born with aortic valves that are abnormal. Others develop valve damage because of an illness or aging. If the result is a narrowed opening in the valve, the condition is called stenosis. It prevents the valve from moving an appropriate volume of blood to your body and that causes your heart to work harder. Stenosis is the most common form of heart valve disease and affects almost 10-percent of people over 65 years of age.
Symptoms of Aortic Valve Stenosis
Symptoms of aortic valve stenosis may be deceptively mild and overlooked without routine, quality wellness check-ups. More often, the condition is detected after symptoms become more severe. The symptoms of aortic valve stenosis include:
- Abnormal heart sounds when your doctor listens to your heart through a stethoscope (heart murmur)
- Chest pain or tightness, especially with physicial activity
- Dizziness or fainting spells
- Shortness of breath
- Unusual heart rhythm (arrhythmia)
- A rapid, fluttering heartbeat (palpitations)
- Reduced appetite, perhaps even weight loss
Risk Factors for Aortic Valve Stenosis
Your risk of developing aortic stenosis increases with age and the presence of other health conditions like diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or kidney disease. Elevated risk also is associated with a history of radiation therapy to the chest.
Aortic valve stenosis has a number of causes.
The aortic valve is comprised of three flaps called cusps. Some people may be born with fewer than three flaps in a codnidition called Bicuspid Aortic Valve. Some people may be born with more than three flaps. This defect may be inherited or it may occur without any family history.
Calcium is a naturally occurring mineral in the blood. As blood flows through the aortic valve, bits of calcium can be left behind and build up as we age. This causes the valve to lose elasticity. This calcium is not related to anything we eat or drink. The condition can occur in younger people, but is more common in elderly people, patients with previous radiation to the chest or those with chronic kidney disease on hemodialysis
Rheumatic fever is an infection associated with strep throat that may result in the development of scar tissue on the aortic valve. This scar tissue may narrow the valve or it may provide a surface that collects calcium and results in a narrowed valve.
Diagnosis of Aortic Valve Stenosis
Diagnosis generally begins with routine examination by your family doctor. Your doctor may notice an abnormal sound, while listening to your heart with a stethoscope call heart murmur. You may be referred to a cardiologist – a doctor who specialized in heart conditions.
The cardiologist will review your family and medical history and conduct a physical exam. Then, your doctor may order certain tests to confirm a diagnosis and to evaluate the severity of your condition.
A chest x-ray may reveal an enlargement of the heart or your aorta that leads your doctor to order additional tests.
This test begins with special adhesive pads begin place on your skin. These pads are attached to wires that measure the electrical activity of your heart to check for any abnormalities.
This test uses sound waves to create a video of your heart function. Your doctor or a specially-trained technician will move a device shaped like a wand on the outside of your chest. That creates images of the chambers of your heart and the function of your valves. You shouldn’t be surprised if your doctor do several echocardiogram on you every eyar. You valve stenosis might be tight, but not tight enough to require surgery or any intervention. Therefore, the doctor will perform serial echocardiogram (ever 4 – 6 months) to follw the progress of the valve stenosis so he or she can refer you to the valve surgery when the valve stenosis is severe. Another form of echocardiogram called a transesophageal echocardiogram inserts a small wand called a transducer into your esophagus to get a closer look at the aortic valve from inside your chest.
A CT scan produces a series of x-rays that offer a detailed look at the structures of your heart and heart valves. It may reveal signs of heart enlargement or abnormalities in the valves.
An MRI uses magnetic fields to create images of your heart. MRIs are particularly effective in revealing changes in soft tissues such as your aorta or valves.
These tests may identify undiagnosed symptoms such as abnormalities with your heart rate or rhythm. They also may measure the severity of your condition.
This test may be recommended if other tests aren’t definitive or in case you need valve surgery and the doctors want to make sure blood supply is not comprolised before the valve surgery. During this procedure, your heart specialist (called: interventional cardiologist) threads a very thin tube, called a catheter, into a blood vessel near your wrist or groin to reach a blood vessel near your heart. Your doctor may introduce a dye through the catheter to illuminate structures, evaluate heart function, and to help measure the pressure inside the chambers of your heart.
Complications of Aortic Valve Disease
Aortic valve disease may result in certain complications like, fainting, death, blood clots, stroke, an increased susceptibility to infections in the heart, or heart failure. These conditions can be effectively treated with proper diagnosis and intervention.