Treating Aortic Valve Disease in Fountain Valley, CA
The aortic valve allows blood to flow from the heart’s lower left chamber (ventricle) into the aorta and to the body. However, the aortic valve can work against the heart with aortic valve disease.
Aortic Valve Stenosis
Aortic valve stenosis prevents the valve from opening properly, making it too narrow, forcing the heart to work harder to pump blood through the valve. This causes pressure to build up in the left ventricle and thickens the heart muscle. This is the most common type of aortic valve disease, and unfortunately the most serious.
What Causes Aortic Valve Stenosis?
The most common cause of aortic valve stenosis is age. As you get older, calcium builds up in your valves which can make the valve walls thicker, narrowing the opening. Additionally, over years of wear and tear, some scarring damage might cause the same problem, especially if you suffered from a heart condition in the past. In fact, 12.4% of the population over the age of 75 has aortic stenosis. The average age to be diagnosed is 65-70 years.
Another cause of aortic stenosis is a congenital birth defect called bicuspid aortic valve, which is when two “leaflets” of the aortic valve fuse during development in the wound and result in a 2 leaflet valve, versus the normal 3 leaflet valve. This causes the aortic valve to not function properly.
Other causes and risk factors for aortic valve stenosis are previous rheumatic fever (as is the case with mitral valve stenosis), and chronic kidney disease. Men also have a higher risk of getting aortic valve stenosis than women.
Aortic Valve Regurgitation
The aortic valve’s main function is to keep blood from flowing backward as the heart rests between beat. When the heart has aortic valve regurgitation, the valve isn’t closing properly, and blood may flow backward into a different chamber. This is less serious than aortic valve stenosis, and it may take years before symptoms even show up, but it can still cause complications such as shortness of breath, chest pain, irregular heartbeats or fatigue. When you have chronic valve regurgitation, it is typically safer since it happens gradually over time. Acute valve regurgitation happens suddenly, and the symptoms are more severe.
Common Causes of Aortic Valve Regurgitation
Causes of chronic aortic valve regurgitation are similar to aortic valve stenosis; age, bicuspid aortic valve, and rheumatic fever. However, some additional causes include enlarged aorta due to high blood pressure and endocarditis, a heart infection.
Acute aortic valve regurgitation is primarily caused by endocarditis, aortic dissection (which means that the inner layer of the aorta separates from the middle layer), or trauma to the heart/aorta.
Symptoms of Aortic Valve Disease
Some people with aortic valve disease may not experience symptoms for many years. Signs and symptoms of aortic valve disease may include:
- Abnormal heart sound (heart murmur) heard through a stethoscope
- Shortness of breath, particularly when you have been very active or when you lie down
- Chest pain or tightness
- Irregular heartbeat
- Fatigue after being active or having less ability to be active
- Not eating enough (mainly in children with aortic valve stenosis)
- Not gaining enough weight (mainly in children with aortic valve stenosis)
- Swelling of the ankles and feet
Treatment Options for Aortic Valve Disease
For most cases, aortic valve repair is used to treat more minor cases of aortic valve disease. For more serious cases, aortic valve replacement may be necessary. At The Bethencourt Group, we pride ourselves on our experience with minimally invasive robotic cardiac surgery to treat aortic valve disorders.