Your heart pumps blood to the entire body and has four valves that play an important role in this process. The aortic valve has thin leaflets that open and close when the heart squeezes and relaxes. On average, these leaflets open and close 108,000 times each day! If the aortic valve leaflets become stiff, the valve cannot open and close properly. As the valve opening narrows, it is harder for your heart to pump blood, resulting in a condition called aortic stenosis.
Aortic stenosis is progressive, which means that the valve will continue to narrow over time. Symptoms depend on the severity of your aortic stenosis, which ranges from mild to moderate to severe. Most people will not experience any symptoms until the valve is severely narrowed.
Common symptoms include:
Severe aortic stenosis is serious and life-threatening. If the valve is not fixed, up to 50% of patients will die within 2 years of diagnosis.
Using a stethoscope, your doctor will listen to your heart. Usually, they'll hear a heart murmur and order further tests. An echocardiogram (or heart ultrasound) is the preferred test for diagnosing and monitoring the severity of aortic stenosis.
Medications cannot prevent, reduce the severity of, or fix aortic stenosis. If you are suffering from severe aortic stenosis and have ANY symptoms, then aortic valve replacement (AVR) is required.
There are two options for aortic valve replacement–transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) and surgical aortic valve replacement (SAVR).
TAVR is a less-invasive procedure that replaces your heart valve through a tube (catheter) with a tissue valve from a cow or pig.
The benefits of TAVR include:
SAVR involves making an incision in the chest to remove and replace your heart valve with a mechanical or tissue valve.