Aortic Valve Stenosis

What is aortic valve stenosis?

The heart, a complex organ responsible for pumping blood throughout the body, relies on a network of valves to maintain its functionality. Among these, the aortic valve plays a crucial role in regulating blood flow from the heart’s left ventricle to the aorta, ensuring oxygen-rich blood is efficiently distributed. Aortic valve stenosis is a cardiac condition that arises when this valve becomes narrowed or obstructed, hindering the smooth flow of blood.

Types of aortic valve stenosis

Aortic valve stenosis can be classified into three main types:

  • Calcific aortic stenosis: This is the most common form, often associated with aging. Over time, calcium deposits accumulate on the valve, causing it to stiffen and narrow.
  • Congenital aortic stenosis: Some individuals are born with aortic valve abnormalities, leading to stenosis. This condition may not manifest immediately but can develop over time.
  • Rheumatic aortic stenosis: Resulting from rheumatic fever, this type of stenosis occurs due to inflammation and scarring of the aortic valve.

Causes of aortic valve stenosis

Understanding the causes of aortic valve stenosis is crucial for effective prevention and management. The primary factors contributing to this condition include:

  • Age: Calcific aortic stenosis is commonly associated with aging, as wear and tear on the valve lead to the accumulation of calcium deposits.
  • Congenital factors: Genetic predisposition or developmental issues can contribute to congenital aortic stenosis.
  • Rheumatic fever: Inflammatory conditions like rheumatic fever can scar the aortic valve, causing stenosis.
  • Degenerative changes: Over time, the normal wear and tear on the aortic valve can lead to degenerative changes, particularly in the elderly.

Symptoms of aortic valve stenosis

Recognising the symptoms of aortic valve stenosis is vital for early intervention. Common signs include:

  • Chest pain: Discomfort or pain in the chest, often triggered by physical activity.
  • Shortness of breath: Difficulty breathing, especially during exertion.
  • Fatigue: Generalised tiredness and weakness.
  • Dizziness or fainting: Reduced blood flow may lead to dizziness or fainting spells.
  • Heart murmurs: Unusual heart sounds detected during a physical examination.

Treatment available for aortic valve stenosis

Timely and appropriate treatment is essential for managing aortic valve stenosis. The approach may vary based on the severity of the condition and individual health factors. Treatment options include:

  • Medication: While medications cannot cure aortic valve stenosis, they can help manage symptoms and improve overall heart function.
  • Balloon valvuloplasty: This minimally invasive procedure involves inflating a balloon within the narrowed valve to widen it and improve blood flow.
  • Surgical aortic valve replacement (SAVR): Traditional open-heart surgery to replace the damaged valve with a prosthetic one through standard incision (midline sternotomy by dividing the breastbone) or minimally invasive techniques (sparing the complete division of the breastbone).
  • Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR): A less invasive alternative where a new valve is inserted through a catheter, often suitable for high-risk or elderly patients who can’t be offered SAVR.

Risks and complications associated with aortic valve stenosis

Neglecting treatment for aortic valve stenosis can lead to severe risks and complications:

  • Heart failure: The heart may struggle to pump blood effectively, leading to heart failure.
  • Arrhythmias: Irregular heartbeats can develop, posing additional cardiovascular risks.
  • Increased risk of infection: Damaged valves are more susceptible to infections, potentially causing life-threatening complications.
  • Sudden cardiac death: In extreme cases, untreated aortic valve stenosis can result in sudden cardiac death.

Recognising the potential dangers underscores the importance of seeking timely medical intervention and exploring appropriate treatment options.

The responsive team facilitates appointments, and scheduling for a Cardiac Consultation, initially accommodating both in-person and virtual consultations based on patient preferences.