Aortic stenosis is a common cardiac condition that affects approximately 5 percent of people over the age of 75. Moreover, an estimated 80,000 aortic valve operations are performed each year in the United States. With the aging "baby boomers," the absolute number of patients with aortic stenosis is expected to dramatically increase over the next 15 years.
What is aortic stenosis?
The aortic valve is a one-way valve that separates the left ventricle (heart chamber that pumps oxygen-rich blood to the body) from the aorta (the main blood vessel of the body). When the left ventricle squeezes, the aortic valve opens and allows blood to flow from the heart to the body. Aortic stenosis is a condition characterized by narrowing of the aortic valve, resulting in restriction of blood flow out of the heart.
Causes of Aortic Stenosis
The most common cause of aortic stenosis is the hardening of the aortic valve leaflets. In addition, some patients are born with a bicuspid aortic valve where only two of the three valve leaflets are present at birth. This valve may degenerate and cause aortic stenosis.
Aortic stenosis symptoms
When aortic stenosis becomes severe and symptoms develop, it is life-threatening. Common symptoms may include:
- breathlessness with activity
- chest discomfort
- fainting, weakness or dizziness with activity
- inability to perform activities that were once easy
Some patients who develop these warning symptoms may mistakenly believe they are due to “old age.” While most people become less active with aging, these symptoms should never be considered “normal” and should be investigated by a qualified physician.
Diagnosis of aortic stenosis
Most people are diagnosed with aortic stenosis when their doctor hears a heart murmur or abnormal sounds through a stethoscope. An echocardiogram (echo) is usually the first test to confirm the presence of aortic stenosis, to gauge its severity and to exclude other structural heart abnormalities. Depending on the result of the echo, other tests may be indicated. Depending on the result of the echo, some other tests may be ordered.
Treatment of aortic stenosis
Beaumont's heart valve program offers the most advanced, innovative approaches for treating all types of heart valve disease, including aortic stenosis. Through the advancements of Beaumont's Heart Valve Clinic, patients who previously had no treatment options now have options for even the most complex issues.
Treatment for aortic stenosis depends on the severity of the disease and may include:
As one of the highest volume centers in the state, you can be assured that the physicians in Beaumont's heart valve program are the leading experts in treating even the most complex cases.