Aortic Stenosis


Aortic Stenosis

What is aortic stenosis?

Aortic stenosis is the most common heart valve problem in the United States. 

The aorta is the main artery that carries blood out of the heart. Aortic stenosis occurs when the aortic valve does not fully open, causing it to narrow and decrease blood flow out of the heart. Your heart must work harder to push blood through the aortic valve to your body. Eventually your heart gets weaker, increasing the risk of heart failure.

Severe aortic stenosis is a very serious problem and prevents enough blood from reaching the brain and the rest of the body. 

Aortic stenosis occurs more often in men than women. It usually affects adults, but can occur in children. Infants and children with the condition may experience symptoms similar to those in adults.

What are the symptoms of aortic stenosis in adults?

  • Shortness of breath, or breathlessness with activity
  • Chest pain, angina type
    • Crushing, squeezing, pressure, tightness
    • Pain increases with exercise, is relieved with rest
    • Pain is under chest bone but may move to other areas, often the left side of the chest
  • Fainting, weakness, or dizziness
  • Sensation of feeling the heart beat (palpitations)

Surgical Treatment for Aortic Stenosis

Traditional Aortic Valve Replacement

This is the primary surgical treatment for aortic valve stenosis. During the procedure, the narrowed aortic valve is replaced with a mechanical valve or a tissue valve. Mechanical valves, made from metal, are durable but carry a risk of blood clots forming on or near the valve. If you receive a mechanical valve, you will need to take an anticoagulant medication, such as warfarin (Coumadin) for the rest of your life to prevent blood clots. Tissue valves come from a pig, cow, or human deceased donor, and may eventually need to be replaced. In some cases, your own pulmonary valve can be used as a replacement valve. Your cardiologist can discuss the risks and benefits of each option.

Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR)

If a cardiac surgeon determines that you are too sick for open heart surgery and if medicine is not helping you feel better, TAVR may be an alternative. TAVR is a catheter-based technique that is a potentially life-saving procedure to treat aortic stenosis in high-risk patients who are not candidates for surgery. This less invasive procedure allows your aortic valve to be replaced with a new valve while your heart is still beating. TAVR is for patients who are inoperable or at high risk for open heart surgery and have critical aortic stenosis. Because it is catheter-based, there is a shorter recovery time.

Munson Medical Center began offering the TAVR procedure in 2012, using the Edwards Lifesciences SAPIEN heart valve. Munson Medical Center also was one of the first sites in the country to offer an upgraded SAPIEN valve in 2014. The SAPIEN heart valve is made from animal tissue and replaces your aortic valve. The procedure lasts four to five hours, and an average hospital stay of eight days. The procedure requires general anesthesia. Learn more about TAVR.

Balloon Aortic Valvuloplasty (BAV)

Sometimes, repairing your aortic valve is an option. Balloon valvuloplasty uses a catheter tipped with a balloon. Once in position, the balloon is inflated, pushing open the aortic valve and stretching the value opening, improving blood flow. The catheter and the deflated balloon are then removed. In adults, the procedure is not usually successful because the valve tends to narrow again after initial success. For that reason, it is not often used to treat aortic valve stenosis in adults, except in people who are too ill to undergo surgery.

Heart Services Are Nearby

If you have any symptoms of heart attack or stroke, call 911. Do not drive yourself to the hospital. EMTs can begin life-saving care immediately before you reach the hospital.

For more information, contact your primary care provider or Traverse Heart and Vascular at 800-637-4033.