Advanced cardiac care to get you back to those you love

Heart valve disease

Aortic stenosis  is a serious heart valve disease that restricts normal blood flow to the entire body. When you have aortic stenosis, your heart valves are not able to fully open and close and your lungs, brain and body do not get the oxygen-rich blood they need to function. Your heart eventually gets weaker and your risk for heart failure and sudden cardiac death becomes greater.

Our cardiologists and cardiovascular surgeons at CHI Memorial use several techniques to treat aortic stenosis, repairing or replacing damaged heart valves. Surgical treatment options available to you include open-heart surgery and minimally invasive aortic valve replacement.

Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) is a less invasive option that we offer for patients with severe heart valve disease who are high or intermediate risk for open-heart surgery. TAVR uses a catheter to replace the heart valve. This less invasive procedure allows a new valve to be inserted within the existing, diseased aortic valve without opening up the chest and completely removing the diseased valve.

If you are diagnosed with aortic stenosis, your team of cardiologists, cardiovascular surgeons, and clinicians at CHI Memorial will work closely with you to determine the approach that provides you with the best outcome.

The aorta is the main artery that carries blood out of the heart to the rest of the body. Blood flows out of the heart and into the aorta through the aortic valve. With aortic stenosis, the aortic valve does not open fully. This decreases blood flow from the heart.

As the aortic valve narrows, the left ventricle has to work harder to pump blood out through the valve. To do this extra work, the muscles in the ventricle walls become thicker. This can lead to chest pain. As the pressure continues to rise, blood may back up into the lungs. Severe aortic stenosis can limit the amount of blood that reaches the brain and the rest of the body. Aortic stenosis may be present from birth (congenital), but most often it develops later in life.

The main cause of aortic stenosis is the buildup of calcium deposits causing the aortic valve to narrow. This is called calcific aortic stenosis and primarily affects older people. Calcification of the valve happens sooner in people who are born with abnormal aortic or bicuspid valves. In rare cases, calcification can develop more quickly when a person has received chest radiation (such as for cancer treatment).

Another cause of aortic stenosis is rheumatic fever. This condition can develop after strep throat or scarlet fever. Valve problems do not develop for 5 - 10 years or longer after rheumatic fever occurs. Rheumatic fever is becoming rarer in the United States.

Aortic stenosis occurs in about 2% of people over 65 years of age. It occurs more often in men than in women.

Aortic stenosis symptoms include:

  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lightheadedness, feeling dizzy and/or fainting
  • Difficulty breathing when exercising
  • Swelling in the feet, ankles and legs

Risk factors for aortic stenosis include:

  • Advanced age
  • Hgh blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • History of smoking