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Aortic valve disease

The aortic valve regulates the blood flow from the ventricles (heart’s lower chambers) to the aorta, which is the main artery of the heart. If this valve does not work properly, it leads to aortic valve disease. Earliest diagnosis and early treatment is the most important step in aortic valve disease. Untreated aortic valve disease can result in severe complications such as heart failure, infection, and even sudden death. Aortic valve disease can also be congenital (a birth defect). There are two types of aortic valve diseases.

It is also called aortic insufficiency or incompetence. Here the white blood flows backward from the aortic valve into the ventricles. The symptoms of this condition appear years later.

The main causes of aortic regurgitation are:

  • Age: men between the age group of 30 and 60 are more prone to aortic valve regurgitation.
  • Some health conditions make you more susceptible for aortic regurgitation, which includes, Marfan syndrome (long and more flexible joints), ankylosing spondylitis, dissecting aortic aneurysm, aortic stenosis (narrowed aortic valves).

The symptoms may appear slowly or suddenly:

  • Fatigue
  • Chest pain
  • Swollen ankles
  • High pulse rate
  • Shortness of breath

Blocking of aortic valve by the deposits leads to aortic valve stenosis. This blockage leads to obstruction in the blood flow. So, the left ventricle takes the burden to work hard to compensate for the reduced blood flow. This overload can result in heart failure.

The main causes of aortic stenosis are:

  • Gender: Men are most commonly affected with aortic valve stenosis
  • Rheumatic fever: Is the main cause of aortic stenosis in the people under age 50
  • Progression of calcium deposits and the growth of fibrous tissue can stiffen and cause discomfort in aortic valves

The symptoms of aortic stenosis include:

  • Fainting
  • Coughing
  • Severe chest pain
  • Heart palpitations
  • Shortness of breath

Aortic valve sclerosis is defined as the thickening of the aortic valve. This condition does not cause any obstruction in the flow of blood.

The main causes of aortic sclerosis are:

  • Rheumatic fever
  • Accumulation of calcium on the valve
  • Congenital heart defect

The symptoms of aortic sclerosis include:

  • Mild thickening

Your doctor would talk to you regarding the symptoms and perform a physical examination and order for other tests. The tests include:

  • Echocardiography-this test reveals the problems related to structure and function of your heart
  • Transesophageal echocardiography-this is an alternative way of echocargiogram; uses high-frequncy sound waves to take detailed pictures of the heart and the arteries.
  • Cardiac catheterization (angiogram)- a small flexible tube called catheter is inserted into the blood vessel that leads to the heart to check if there are any blockages in the heart and its related arteries.

Medications and surgery are the two possible treatment options for aortic valve disease. Your doctor would recommend appropriate treatment depending on the condition.

Medications:

Drugs for aortic valve diseaseFunctions
Diuretics Removes extra fluid from the tissues, reduces the symptoms of heart failure.
Anti-arrhythmic medications Stabilize your heart rhythm
Vasodilators Reduce your hearts burden by encouraging your heart’s flow in a right direction
ACE inhibitors Treats blood pressure and heart failure
Beta blockers Decrease your heart’s over palpations
Anticoagulants Reduce the blood clots on your heart valves.

Surgery: Surgical options include heart valve repair. Aortic valve replacement surgery is a traditional option; there are also minimally invasive methods of aortic valve surgery. Your valves may also be repaired by other procedures such as percutaneous balloon valvotomy.