Aortic Valve Disease
Aortic valve disease is a problem with the aortic valve - between the aorta and the left ventricle.
What is aortic valve disease?
Aortic valve disease is a heart condition in which the valve between the biggest artery in the body called the aorta and the lower chamber of your heart, the left ventricle, stop working properly. There are two types of aortic valve disease which are aortic valve stenosis and aortic valve regurgitation.
Aortic valve stenosis
In the middle of the aorta and the left ventricle are flaps where the blood flows through. A build-up of calcium on these flaps can cause them to stiffen, narrow or even stick together and ultimately prevent blood flow from your heart in to the rest of your body.
This is a condition where the flaps of the aortic valve, which are actually called leaflets do not close properly. This causes the blood to flow back in to the left ventricle.
Symptoms and Causes
While it is possible to be born with aortic valve disease (congenital heart disease), some people may not present with any symptoms until later in life. Here are some common symptoms of both conditions:
- Dizziness and fainting
- Chest pain and tightness
- Shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations
- Swelling of the ankles
- Heart murmur
As mentioned above, it is possible to have aortic valve disease present from birth but there can be other risk factor associated with this condition too. There are certain age-related changes to the heart like high blood pressure or infections. Injury to the heart is another risk factor, as well as chronic kidney disease.
Aortic valve disease can cause other complications such as heart rhythm abnormalities, stroke, blood clots, heart failure and even death.
How is it diagnosed?
During a consultation your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and health, discuss your medical history. Next, a physical examination may be performed as well as listening to your heart with a stethoscope to check for any heart murmurs.
Tests will need to be performed to actually diagnose this condition. The tests that can be ordered are:
- Chest X-ray
- Cardiac computerised tomography (CT) scan
- Exercise tests or stress tests
Types of treatment all depends on the severity of the condition.
If the patient is not experiencing any symptoms then your doctor may take the more conservative route of watching and waiting. This includes regular check-ups and monitoring.
Medication may also be an option if a patient is suffering from high blood pressure, this will prevent the build-up of fluid. Other medications are available for chest pain and to lower cholesterol.
Finally, your doctor may to perform aortic valve repair or replacement surgery. This will be performed if other methods are not possible or the condition is severe. You will be walked through the benefits, complications, risks and reason for the surgery and at that point you can ask any questions or share your concerns.
If a patient is having an aortic valve repair (valvuloplasty) then there are several ways to perform this operation. The surgeon will enter a balloon on the tip of a thin tube called a catheter in to the body which is guided to the aortic valve. The balloon is inflated which will expand the valve and regulate blood flow. The balloon will then be deflated and removed with the catheter. This procedure is also performed in children.
An aortic valve replacement will completely remove and replace the damaged valve with either a mechanical valve, human donor or one from an animal like pig or cow.
If you would like further information on aortic valve disease, please do contact us for a consultation where we will be able to help.
Keeping your heart healthy involves maintaining an active lifestyle and identifying any potentially dangerous heart problems before they become more severe.