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What is Aortic Stenosis and What Causes It?

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What is Aortic Stenosis and What Causes It?

Cardiac Surgery | by Dr. Ratan Kumar Das | Published on 20/06/2021


Introduction

Do you experience shortness of breath or heart palpitations often? If yes, then you must not overlook such signs as they can be an indication of a condition named aortic stenosis. This condition affects the heart valves by making them narrow. As a result, it becomes difficult for the heart to receive sufficient blood flow. The heart has to put extra effort into pumping enough blood into the aorta and throughout the body. 

You must be aware of such a condition as it can lead to life-threatening problems. You can avoid them before it gets complicated. All you have to do is book your appointment with the best cardiologist in Kolkata, BM Birla Heart Research Centre for proper diagnosis and to know your treatment options. 

In this blog, we will involve a comprehensive discussion on aortic stenosis for your understanding so make sure to stick till the end. However, please note that we don’t recommend you to involve any precautionary measures on your own without consulting a healthcare professional. The write-up is for informative purposes only and is completely research-based. 

What is Aortic Stenosis?

Aortic stenosis is a condition in which the valves of the heart become narrow, resulting in lesser blood flow to the heart. The heart has four valves which include the mitral valve, tricuspid valve, pulmonary valve, and aortic valve. These valves play an important role by pumping the right amount of blood in the right direction. These valves have flaps that are called cusps or leaflets that open and close during each heartbeat and if they don't open properly or on time the blood flow gets blocked or reduced.

When the aortic valve between the lower left heart chamber and the aorta does not open completely it's called aortic stenosis. When the aortic valve opening is narrowed, the heart has to work harder to pump enough blood into the aorta and to the rest of the body. This extra work can cause the left ventricle to enlarge and become thicker which can put a lot of strain on the heart and also cause weakened heart muscle. It makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood and it can also cause chest pain, fainting, and heart failure leading to shortness of breath. Experts specializing in TAVI surgery in Kolkata suggest that a severe case of aortic stenosis can even cause death.

What are Aortic Stenosis Symptoms?

Aortic stenosis symptoms might vary depending on the particular case and situation. Symptoms usually occur when the condition is serious. Some people with aortic stenosis do not experience symptoms till their condition becomes critical. However, there are some common signs and symptoms that one should look out for and they are: 

  • Abnormal heart sound or heart murmur 
  • Rapid and fluttering heartbeat or palpitations
  • Feeling faint or dizzy or fainting with activity
  • Shortness of breath when active
  • Pain or tightness in the chest with activity, 
  • Fatigue during times of increased activity. 

One should not take these symptoms lightly and consult the doctor as soon as possible as this condition can be fatal.

What are the causes of Aortic Stenosis?

Some conditions are known to be the contributing factors for aortic stenosis. Experts suggest that they are the cause of this condition. Here are some of the main aortic stenosis causes: 

  • Congenital heart defects: An aortic valve has three cusps or leaflets but sometimes children are born with an aortic valve that has one, two, or four cusps which can lead to narrowing and leak. It then has to be repaired or replaced. This condition requires regular checkups and should not be taken lightly at all even though the defect may not cause any problems till adulthood as it can be fatal if the valve begins to narrow or leak.
  • Calcium buildup on the valve: Calcium is a mineral found in your blood and as blood repeatedly flows over the aortic valve, calcium deposits can build up on the heart valve leaflets. This buildup can cause the leaflets to become stiff, gradually reducing their ability to completely open and close.
  • Rheumatic fever: Strep throat at times leads to rheumatic fever, which can lead to scar tissue formation within the heart. This makes it difficult for the aortic valve to narrow down or to open and close normally. Scar tissue can also create a rough surface which can lead to calcium deposits.
  • Radiation Therapy: Sometimes people develop inflammation and scar tissue after they receive radiation therapy. Inflammation and scarring can make the aortic valve stiff which can make it difficult to function.

How is aortic stenosis diagnosed?

The doctor will confirm the aortic stenosis diagnosis by asking questions about the symptoms and examining the patient. They might observe the symptoms like a heart murmur. Depending on what the doctor detects, some tests might be ordered such as: 

  • An ECG, or electrocardiogram test is ordered as it offers worthwhile information linked to the heart. It will also let the doctor identify if the heart’s left side is enlarged as the heart is working harder to pump blood through a narrowed valve. 
  • Chest X-ray is ordered to identify the heart failure signs 
  • An echocardiogram detects how effectively the heart is functioning and pumping the blood through any of the narrowed valves. 

What are the options for aortic stenosis treatment?

An aortic stenosis treatment plan depends on the severity of symptoms and the diagnosis. If the patient is not experiencing any symptoms, then the doctor will be involved in monitoring the condition for time and will recommend certain conditions including lifestyle changes. On the other hand, if the condition is severe, then the doctor will determine whether the aortic valve requires replacement or repair. Here are some of the surgical options recommended to treat aortic stenosis: 

  • Aortic valve replacement surgery is prescribed in which surgeons initiate the surgery by removing the damaged valve. It is performed by involving both methods that are open-chest and minimally invasive heart surgery. The valve is replaced mechanically or biologically. 
  • Ballon valvuloplasty is another method prescribed to the patient. It is a catheter-based surgery that involves palliative treatment so that symptoms are improved if valve replacement cannot be an option. 
  • Transcatheter aortic valve replacement or TAVR is recommended to treat aortic valve stenosis. It is an advanced, and non-surgical procedure performed to replace an aortic valve. 

Conclusion

An aortic stenosis condition can be life-threatening if left untreated. It is recommended to get in touch with your healthcare professional to understand the risk of aortic stenosis if you are experiencing symptoms like shortness of breath or heart palpitations. It is an intricate condition but can be treated with surgical and non-surgical methods. You don’t have to feel apprehensive if you are diagnosed with this problem, just make sure to work with your doctor and soon with the right treatment options, you will start feeling better.

FAQ-

 

How to measure aortic stenosis?

Echocardiography is among the best and most used methods to measure aortic stenosis.

Can aortic stenosis be treated with medication?

Yes, aortic stenosis can be treated with medications if the symptoms are not very serious.

How serious is aortic stenosis?

An aortic stenosis is a life-threatening condition as it can lead to fluid accumulation in the lungs and increased pressure in the heart’s left ventricle.