Mostly occurring in the senior population and often under-treated, aortic stenosis happens when the aortic valve (the main artery that carries blood out of the heart) fails to fully open. When this occurs, blood flow from the heart is decreased causing blood to back up in the lungs and, in its most severe form, is prevented from reaching the brain and the rest of the body.
Aortic stenosis in adults develops primarily from calcification of the valve with age or in those who've had rheumatic fever, a condition that may develop after strep throat or scarlet fever. In these cases, valve problems do not develop for five to ten years or longer after rheumatic fever occurs. While very rare, other factors that can lead to aortic stenosis include aortic valve calcium deposits, radiation treatment to the chest and certain medications.
Because so few people present with symptoms of aortic stenosis early on, it isn't often diagnosed until a doctor hears a heart murmur with a stethoscope, which prompts him to order additional tests. Symptoms of aortic stenosis can include:
- Chest pain
- Breathlessness with activity
- Fainting, weakness, or dizziness with activity
- Sensation of feeling the heart beat (palpitations)
Tests and treatments
If aortic stenosis is suspected, your physician may request that you have one or more of the following tests:
- Chest x-ray
- Doppler echocardiography
- Exercise stress testing
- Left cardiac catheterization
- MRI of the heart
- Transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE)
Depending on the severity of the condition, medications, valve repair or valve replacement may be considered.
Learn more. Contact our Heart Valve Clinic coordinator:
Deanne Olson, RN, MBA, CCRP
Medical Center of the Rockies
2500 Rocky Mountain Ave., Suite 100
Loveland, CO 80538