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One of the most common and also the most serious valve disease problems is that of aortic stenosis. This ailment occurs when the aortic valve narrows down. Read on to know more about this ailment, its symptoms, how it is diagnosed and its treatment.
What Is Aortic Stenosis?
When the heart's aortic valve narrows down and prevents the valve from opening completely, it leads to aortic stenosis. This causes blockage and prevents proper blood flow from the heart towards the inside of the main artery and then towards the aorta and finally the rest of the body.
Due to the reduction in the flow of blood, the heart will need to work harder in order to be able to pump blood to the rest of the body. The extra work that the heart does limits the actual amount of blood that can be pumped. This weakens the heart muscles.
The condition can be treated; however, it depends on how severe your condition is. A surgical procedure might be required to repair or replace the valve. If the condition is left untreated, it can lead to serious cardiovascular issues.
What Are The Symptoms Of Aortic Stenosis?
This ailment can range from being mild to severe. When the narrowing of the valve turns severe, the symptoms begin to show. The general signs and symptoms of this ailment include the following:
• Chest pain or a feeling of tightness near the chest, especially when you are involved in some activity.
• Fainting or feeling dizzy often.
• Abnormal murmuring heard from the heart when examined using a stethoscope.
• Shortness of breath, especially after some heavy activity.
• Not gaining the required weight (especially in the case of children).
• Fatigue, especially after a strenuous activity.
• Rapid, fluttering heartbeat.
• Unable to eat, loss of appetite.
When the heart turns too weak, it can lead to heart failure - symptoms of which are shortness of breath, swollen ankles and feet and fatigue.
How Is Aortic Stenosis Diagnosed?
A doctor would initially review the signs and symptoms that you mention to understand the severity of the condition. A heart murmur is tried to be heard using a stethoscope. Additional tests such as those listed below might be conducted:
• ECG (Electrocardiogram): Electrodes in the form of wires are attached on your skin via pads. This measures the electrical activity of your heart. This is capable of detecting abnormal heart rhythms and enlarged chambers in the heart.
• Echocardiogram: Sound waves are used to attain video images of the heart in motion. This test is usually done when your doctor suspects that you have a heart valve condition. A transesophageal echocardiogram might be conducted to obtain a better look at the aortic valve.
• Cardiac CT scan: A series of X-rays help in obtaining the detailed images of the heart and the heart valves. This test is usually done to determine the size of the aorta and to look more closely at the aortic valve.
• Cardiac MRI: This test uses radio waves and magnetic fields to create detailed images of the heart. This test is done to determine the severity of the condition.
What Are The Treatment Options?
The severity of the condition helps a doctor determine the treatment procedure that should be followed. Mild conditions may not require extensive treatment. Frequent follow-ups for routine check-ups along with a healthy lifestyle and prescribed medicines should be enough to treat the condition effectively.
A surgical procedure might be required in case of severe conditions which would include repairing or replacing the diseased aortic valve. An incision on the chest is done to repair or replace the aortic valve.
The following surgical options are available:
• Balloon valvuloplasty: This procedure involves the use of a catheter to repair the valve. The catheter inserted has a balloon on the tip. This is inserted into an artery in the arm that guides to the affected valve. The balloon is then inflated, which allows the opening of the valve to expand. After this, the balloon is deflated and the catheter removed.
• Aortic valve repair: Most of the time, aortic stenosis would require a replacement and not many doctors suggest a repair of the valve. However, if repair is the chosen method of surgery, then surgeons would do so by separating the valve flaps that have fused.
• Aortic valve replacement: This is the most opted surgical procedure for this condition. The damaged valve is removed and replaced with either a mechanical valve or a biological valve (human heart tissue). However, biological valves are likely to degenerate over time and might need to be replaced again.
Is Aortic Stenosis Life-threatening?
Aortic stenosis in its severe form can become life-threatening. At times, a patient with this condition might continue to live for several years without showing any symptoms. However, symptoms might appear drastically all of a sudden which might require immediate and emergency-based medical attention.