Aortic Valve Disease
The aortic valve controls the flow of blood pumped out of your heart from the left ventricle into the aorta, the main artery leading to the rest of the body. Aortic valve disease refers to damage to the aortic valve, causing it not to function properly.
Aortic Valve Disease Symptoms and Diagnosis
Types of aortic valve disease include:
- Aortic stenosis, when the aortic valve cannot open all the way.
- Aortic insufficiency, or aortic valve regurgitation, in which your aortic valve doesn’t close tightly enough.
- Bicuspid aortic valve disease, a congenital defect affecting the aortic valve.
- Aortic valve endocarditis, when your aortic valve becomes infected.
Symptoms may vary depending on the type of aortic valve disease you have, and some patients do not have any symptoms. The most common symptoms of aortic valve disease include:
- Shortness of breath with exertion
- Chest pain (angina) or tightness
- Overall weakness and fatigue
- Sensation of rapid or irregular heartbeat (palpitations)
- Fainting or dizziness, especially with exertion
Symptoms of aortic valve endocarditis may also include flu-like symptoms and blood in the urine.
Aortic Valve Disease Risk Factors
- Male gender
- Older age
- Having a congenital heart defect
- Family history of aortic valve disease
- Chronic kidney disease
Tests to help diagnose aortic valve disease may include:
- Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG)
- Transesophageal echocardiography (TEE)
- Coronary or cardiac catheterization
- Chest X-ray
- CT scan
- Cardiac MRI
Aortic Valve Disease Treatment at BIDMC
If you don’t have any symptoms of aortic valve disease, or if your symptoms are mild, your doctor may simply monitor your condition on a regular basis, including having you undergo periodic echocardiograms.
To help control any symptoms you are having, medications may be prescribed, including:
- ACE inhibitors
- Calcium channel blockers
If damage to your aortic valve is severe, surgery may be necessary to repair or replace the valve. Replacement valve options include:
- Bioprosthetic valves, made of porcine (pig) or bovine (calf) tissue, which have an average durability of 10 to 15 years.
- Mechanical valves, made of carbon, which last much longer. However, patients must take a blood thinner for life due to an increased risk of blood clots forming.