Aortic Stenosis or AS is the narrowing of the aortic valve in the heart which prevents regular blood flow. This is commonly caused by calcium and scarring due to aging.
In most elderly adults, aortic stenosis is caused by a build-up of calcium (a mineral found in your blood) on the valve leaflets. Over time, this causes the leaflets to become stiff, reducing their ability to fully open and close.
Sometimes strep throat can lead to rheumatic fever which can cause scar tissue to form within the heart. When this happens, the aortic valve may not be able to open and close as it normally should.
A normal aortic valve contains three leaflets. But sometimes people are born with an aortic valve that has one, two, or four leaflets. When defects are present, the aortic valve may leak and this can cause valve problems.
Some people may develop inflammation and scar tissue after receiving radiation therapy. This can make the aortic valve stiff and unable to function properly.
Many times patients modify their lifestyles to accommodate their symptoms. In other words, they change things that they do that make them feel bad and don't realize the reason why.
Open is more invasive and will most likely require more recovery time while percutaneous does not require a large incision and will allow for a quicker recovery.
Mechanical valves are more durable and should last for the rest of your life but require that you take lifelong blood thinning medication. Bioprosthetics only last about 10 to 20 years but do not require long-term blood thinning medication. Speak with your doctor on which may be right for you.
Blood thinners should be discussed with your doctor. If your valve is replaced with a mechanical valve, you will have to take blood thinners for the rest of your life to prevent blood clots from forming.
Valve diseases or defects may not worsen over time but sometimes they can. It is important to continue to monitor your heart disease to reduce the risk of developing life-threatening complications. Your doctor should have a plan on how to continue to monitor your disease.
Depending on your overall health, your doctor will be able to discuss options for surgery. If open-heart surgery is too dangerous for you, your doctor may discuss TAVR as an option.
Occasionally, your doctor can separate your valve's leaflets or remove tissues that obstruct the valve to improve valve function. Your doctor will be able to recommend which treatment option is best for you.
Surgical Aortic Valve Replacement (SAVR) is another option for patients with AS. An incision is made in the chest and the diseased valve is removed and replaced with a new valve. While this surgery can require more recovery time, it is still an option to reduce symptoms and improve life expectancy.
Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) is a minimally invasive option where a new valve is placed within the old valve with a catheter. Your doctor will make a small incision in your leg, chest or neck and the new valve is inserted. It has completely changed the way we treat patients with Aortic Stenosis. Since it is minimally invasive, many patients can leave the hospital the next day!
Depending on the severity of your AS, your doctor may recommend medication to reduce the risk of complications and treat any symptoms you may have.
Depending on the severity of your AS, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of complications.