Severe Aortic

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Inside Your Heart

Your heart’s job is to supply oxygen-rich blood to the rest of your body. It does that by pumping blood through four heart chambers with the help of four heart valves that open and close with every heartbeat.

Heart anatomy illustration with callouts
  1. The aortic valve controls blood flow to the body (except the lungs).
  2. The pulmonary valve is behind the aortic valve and controls blood flow to the lungs.
  3. The tricuspid valve controls blood flow between the heart chambers.
  4. The mitral valve controls blood flow between the heart chambers.

What Is Severe Aortic Stenosis?

A healthy heart beats approximately 100,000 times a day. Severe aortic valve stenosis prevents your aortic valve leaflets from opening and closing properly (pictured below). This makes your heart work harder to pump blood to the rest of your body. A diseased valve affects your health and limits your daily activities.  

Some causes of severe aortic stenosis include:

  • Age
  • Calcium buildup
  • Radiation therapy
  • Infection of the heart

Severe aortic valve stenosis signs include, but 
may not be limited to:

  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Irregular heartbeat
Healthy aortic valve with three leaflets that open and close

Healthy Aortic Valve

1. In a healthy aortic valve, three thin leaflets open and close properly.

Diseased valve with aortic stenosis with stiff and thickened leaflets

Diseased Aortic Valve

2. In a diseased (stenotic) valve, the leaflets become stiff and thickened, limiting the amount of blood pumped out of the body.

Common Treatment Options

Your heart team (a group of healthcare professionals who collaborate) will decide which of the following treatment options is best for you:
  • Medication 
    • Certain medications may ease some of your symptoms. 
  • Balloon Valvuloplasty (BAV) 
    • A tiny balloon is inflated in the aortic valve to try and improve blood flow, but this treatment typically provides only temporary relief.  
  • Surgical Aortic Valve Replacement (SAVR) 
    • Open heart surgery is done to remove the damaged valve and replace it with an artificial valve. Patients usually need to stay in the hospital for a week or more, before beginning a longer period of recovery. 
    • Learn more about surgical heart valve repair.
  • Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) 
    • TAVR is less invasive than open heart surgery. Your doctor will make a small incision on your body. Then, a thin, flexible tube is inserted into an artery to guide the artificial heart valve up to your heart to replace the diseased valve. 
    • Learn more about the TAVR procedure.

What Is the Best Treatment Option for You?

Patient walking with healthcare professional

Your heart team will conduct tests to help determine the best treatment option for you. These tests will tell your doctor:

  • The shape and size of your heart
  • The structure of your artery system
  • If you have other medical problems
Patient in hospital bed being evaluated by healthcare professionals

Common tests performed may include:

  • Cardiac catheterization
  • CT scan
  • Echocardiogram
  • Carotid ultrasound
  • Blood tests
  • Physical exam
  • Frailty testing 
Download this list to learn more about tests your heart valve clinic may perform.

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