Aortic Valve Stenosis
Aortic valve stenosis or aortic stenosis is a disease that affects the aortic valve, which is one of four valves within the heart.
Usually, the valves help pump blood through the heart via tissue leaflets that open and close with each heartbeat. The leaflets make sure blood flows in the right direction through the heart’s four chambers and the rest of the body.
Aortic stenosis occurs when the aortic valve's leaflets stiffen and cannot open or close completely. As a result, the valve narrows (stenosis) and limits blood flow, or if the valve does not close, blood leaks into the heart, causing the heart to enlarge.
The narrowed opening of the valve causes the heart to work harder, and therefore the heart muscle thickens. As stenosis progresses, the heart does not work efficiently, resulting in more severe complications such as shortness of breath, chest discomfort, drop attacks or heart failure.
Aortic stenosis may be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on how much blood is blocked. The condition may get worse over time and may occur with other heart problems. You may need valve repair or replacement surgery. Severe aortic stenosis can lead to heart failure.
Moderate to severe aortic stenosis may affect the heart and blood vessels in these ways:
- Over time, the left ventricle enlarges and can’t pump blood to the body very well.
- The aorta may also become larger.
- The coronary arteries that send blood to the heart muscle may not get enough blood.
About the Heart’s Valves
The aortic valve is one of four heart valves that keep blood flowing through the heart in the correct direction. The four heart valves include:
- Aortic valve
- Mitral valve
- Pulmonary valve
- Tricuspid valve
During every heartbeat, each valve’s leaflets (also referred to as cusps or flaps) should open and close once, acting as a one-way door that makes sure blood flows in the right direction through the heart’s four chambers and to the rest of the body. If a valve doesn’t properly open or close, blood flow can be reduced or blocked.