The aorta is the main artery leaving the heart. When blood leaves
the heart, it flows from the lower chamber - the left ventricle -
through the aortic valve and into the aorta. Patients with aortic
stenosis have an aortic valve that does not open fully. This
condition restricts blood flow.
As the aortic valve narrows, pressure increases inside the left
ventricle. This pressure causes it to thicken, decreasing blood
flow and possibly leading to chest pain. As the pressure
continues to rise, blood may back up into the lungs, causing
shortness of breath. Severe forms of aortic stenosis prevent
enough blood from reaching the brain and rest of the body. This
can cause lightheadedness and fainting.
Aortic stenosis may be present from birth (congenital), or it may
develop later in life (acquired). Children with aortic stenosis
may have other congenital conditions. In adults, aortic stenosis
occurs most commonly in those who have had rheumatic fever, a
condition that may develop after strep throat or scarlet fever.
Valve problems do not develop for five to 10 years after
rheumatic fever occurs. Rheumatic fever is increasingly rare in
the United States.
Only rarely do other factors lead to aortic stenosis in adults.
These include calcium deposits forming around the aortic valve,
radiation treatment to the chest, and some medications. Aortic
stenosis is not common. It occurs more often in men than in
People with aortic stenosis may have no symptoms at all until
late in the course of the disease. Symptoms can include:
- Breathlessness with activity
- Chest pain
- Crushing, squeezing, pressure, tightness
- Pain that increases with exercise and is relieved with
- Pain under the chest bone, perhaps moving to other areas
- Fainting, weakness or dizziness with activity
- Sensation of feeling the heart beat (palpitations)
- In infants and children, symptoms can include becoming
fatigued with exertion more easily than others or serious
breathing problems that develop within days or weeks of birth.
A health care provider should be consulted if symptoms of aortic
stenosis occur in adults or children.
In mild cases, treatment may be limited to being monitored by a
health care provider. Patients with aortic stenosis are often
told not to play competitive sports, even if they have no
symptoms. Patients should stop smoking and be treated for high
cholesterol. People with aortic stenosis should see a
cardiologist every three to six months.
Surgery to repair or replace the valve is the preferred treatment
for adults or children who develop symptoms. For high-risk
patients, a less-invasive procedure called balloon valvuloplasty
may be done in adults or children.
Complications of aortic stenosis can include arrhythmias,
endocarditis, left-sided heart failure or left ventricular
hypertrophy (enlargement) caused by the extra work of pushing
blood through the narrowed valve.
Texas Health is committed to providing quality care to heart
and vascular patients throughout North Texas and beyond. While
various technologies and services are discussed here, not all of
our hospitals offer every treatment and diagnostic technology
highlighted. Call 1-877-THR-WELL to learn more about heart and
vascular services at a Texas Health hospital near you.