Severe aortic stenosis

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.

  1. The aortic valve controls blood flow to the body (except the lungs).
  2. The pulmonary valve controls blood flow to the lungs.
  3. The mitral and tricuspid valves control blood flow between the heart chambers.
Illustration of human heart with numbers pointing to aortic, pulmonary, and mitral and tricuspid valves

What is severe aortic stenosis?

Severe aortic stenosis prevents your aortic valve leaflets from opening and closing properly. 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

Symptoms of severe aortic stenosis include, but may not be limited, to:

  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Irregular heartbeat
Illustration of a healthy aortic valve in the human heart

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

Illustration of a diseased aortic valve in the human heart

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

Common treatment options

Your heart team (a specialized care team that includes interventional cardiologists, cardiac surgeons, imaging specialists, anesthesiologists, and other doctors as needed) will decide which of the following treatment options is best for you:


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 implantation (TAVI)

TAVI is less invasive than open-heart surgery. Your doctor will make a small incision on your body. After the incision is made, 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 TAVI procedure.

What is the best treatment option for you?

Your heart team will conduct tests that will help you and the team discuss the best treatment option. 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

Common tests performed may include:

  • Cardiac catheterization
  • CT scan
  • Echocardiogram
  • Carotid ultrasound
  • Blood tests
  • Physical exam
  • Frailty testing 
  • Pulmonary function test
Female healthcare professional with papers and a pen discussing with an older male patient