Aortic valve disease is a condition in which the valve between the main pumping chamber of your heart (left ventricle) and the main artery to your body (aorta) doesn't work properly. Aortic valve disease may be a condition present at birth (congenital heart disease), or it may result from other causes.
Types of aortic valve disease include:
In this condition, the flaps (cusps) of the aortic valve may become thickened and stiff, or they may fuse together. This causes narrowing of the aortic valve opening. The narrowed valve isn't able to open fully, which reduces or blocks blood flow from your heart into your aorta and the rest of your body.
In this condition, the aortic valve doesn't close properly, causing blood to flow backward into the left ventricle.
Your treatment depends on the type and severity of your aortic valve disease. In some cases you may need surgery to repair or replace the aortic valve.
Some people with aortic valve disease may not experience symptoms for many years. Signs and symptoms of aortic valve disease may include:
If you have a heart murmur, your doctor may recommend that you visit a cardiologist. If you develop any symptoms that may suggest aortic valve disease, see your doctor.
Your heart has four valves that keep blood flowing in the correct direction. These valves include the mitral valve, tricuspid valve, pulmonary valve and aortic valve. Each valve has flaps (cusps or leaflets) that open and close once during each heartbeat. Sometimes, the valves don't open or close properly, disrupting the blood flow through your heart and potentially impairing the ability to pump blood to your body.
In aortic valve disease, the aortic valve between the lower left heart chamber (left ventricle) and the main artery that delivers blood from the heart to the body (aorta) doesn't work properly. It may not be closing properly, which causes blood to leak backward to the left ventricle (regurgitation), or the valve may be narrowed (stenosis).
Aortic valve disease may be caused by a heart defect present at birth (congenital). It can also be caused by other conditions, including age-related changes to the heart, infections, high blood pressure or injury to the heart.
To diagnose aortic valve disease, your doctor may review your signs and symptoms, discuss your medical history, and conduct a physical examination. Your doctor may listen to your heart with a stethoscope to determine if you have a heart murmur that may indicate an aortic valve condition. A doctor trained in heart disease (cardiologist) may evaluate you.
Your doctor may order several tests to diagnose your condition, including:
Echocardiogram. This test uses sound waves to provide video images of your heart in motion. During this test, specialists hold a wandlike device (transducer) on your chest. Doctors may use this test to evaluate your heart chambers, the aortic valve and the blood flow through your heart.
This test can help doctors closely look at the condition of the aortic valve, and the cause and severity of your condition. It can also help doctors determine if you have additional heart valve conditions. Doctors may also use a 3-D echocardiogram.
Doctors may conduct another type of echocardiogram called a transesophageal echocardiogram to get a closer look at the aortic valve. In this test, a small transducer attached to the end of a tube is inserted down the tube leading from your mouth to your stomach (esophagus).
Cardiac catheterization. This test isn't often used to diagnose aortic valve disease, but it may be used if other tests aren't able to diagnose the condition or to determine its severity.
In this procedure, a doctor threads a thin tube (catheter) through a blood vessel in your arm or groin to an artery in your heart and injects dye through the catheter to make the artery visible on an X-ray. This provides your doctor with a detailed picture of your heart arteries and how your heart functions. It can also measure the pressure inside the heart chambers.
Aortic valve disease can cause complications, including:
You'll have regular follow-up appointments with your doctor to monitor your condition.
Your doctor may suggest you incorporate several heart-healthy lifestyle changes into your life, including:
For women with aortic valve disease, it's important to talk with your doctor before you become pregnant. Your doctor can discuss with you which medications you can safely take, and whether you may need a procedure to treat your valve condition prior to pregnancy.
You'll likely require close monitoring by your doctor during pregnancy. Doctors may recommend that women with severe valve conditions avoid pregnancy to avoid the risk of complications.
If you have aortic valve disease, here are some steps that may help you cope:
Risk factors of aortic valve disease include: