Aortic Stenosis (AS) is a disease that narrows the opening of the heart’s aortic valve. Under this condition, the heart must work harder to pump blood to the aorta – the body’s main artery. The heart muscle eventually weakens with AS, which can affect your overall health. Severe AS, left untreated, increases the risk for heart failure and is a life-threatening condition, with a two-year mortality rate between 50 and 60 percent, and a three-year rate less than 30 percent.
It is important that this condition is diagnosed and monitored so that treatment can be prescribed as the disease progresses. Signs and symptoms of severe AS can include chest pain or tightness, feeling faint or fainting with activity, dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath, irregular heart beat or an unusual sound during a heartbeat.
A healthy lifestyle cannot necessarily stop the onset of AS. It is usually not preventable, and may be related to the following:
- A buildup of calcium deposits that narrows the aortic valve
- A history of a bacterial infection of the heart (rheumatic fever)
- Increased fat in the blood vessels (high cholesterol)
- Radiation therapy
- How Aortic Stenosis is Treated
Treatment will depend on how far the AS has progressed. Medications are prescribed in mild cases to regulate the heartbeat and prevent blood clots. As the severity of AS increases, doctors will likely recommend replacement of the aortic valve. Aortic valve replacement (AVR) through open heart surgery, in which surgeons replace the diseased aortic valve with an artificial valve, is the most common method. But for patients who are too high-risk or too sick for surgery, TAVR might be an option.
TAVR is a procedure that is less invasive than surgery, as the artificial aortic valve is inserted through an artery in the neck, leg or between the ribs, and placed inside the diseased valve while the heart is still beating. The treatment is proven to consistently lengthen a patient’s life and improve his or her quality of life. While this one to two hour procedure could be a life-saving alternative for patients not suitable for surgery, it has its own associated risks and it not appropriate for all patients. The Heart Valve Clinic is equipped to determine whether replacement of the aortic valve is necessary, and whether a patient could safely undergo TAVR.