Advanced cardiac care to get you back to those you love

Diagnosis and treatment of heart valve disease

Diagnosing heart valve disease and aortic stenosis

Diagnosing aortic stenosis and heart valve disease may include the following tests in addition to a physical exam:

  • Auscultation – A cardiologist will use a stethoscope to listen to the sounds of the patient’s heart.
  • Echocardiography – This test uses ultrasound waves to obtain images of the heart chambers and valves.
  • Cardiac catheterization (angiography)  – Under X-ray guidance, small hollow tubes (catheters) are advanced to the aortic valve and into the left ventricle. The rate of blood flow across the aortic valve and pressures can be measured.
  • Chest X-ray– A chest X-ray displays images of the organs and structures inside the chest, such as heart, lungs, and blood vessels and can reveal signs of aortic stenosis, and other causes of symptoms not related to coronary heart disease.
  • Electrocardiography (also EKG) – An EKG is a recording of the heart's electrical activity using electrodes attached to the skin. An EKG can show the heart’s rhythm, the heart’s rate, and the strength and timing of the electrical currents.

Treating heart valve disease and aortic stenosis

Treatment for aortic stenosis depends on how far the disease has progressed. If the patient’s stenosis is mild, medication may be prescribed to regulate the heart, prevent blood clots, and manage symptoms. However, medication is a palliative therapy and is not an effective treatment for severe aortic stenosis. The only effective treatment for severe aortic stenosis is to replace the diseased aortic valve. This can be done with open heart surgery or transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR).

During open heart surgery, the surgeon removes the diseased aortic valve and replaces it with either a mechanical valve (made from man-made materials) or a biological valve (made from animal or human tissue), through a median sternotomy or small right anterior thoracotomy (minimally invasive approach).

TAVR is less invasive than open heart surgery. It uses a catheter to replace the heart valve instead of opening up the chest and completely removing the diseased valve. The bioprosthetic valve used during TAVR is inserted within the diseased aortic valve. The valve is crimped onto a balloon that is expanded and pushes the leaflets of the diseased valve aside.