Narrowing of main artery slows blood flow to heart and body

The aortic valve facilitates blood flow to your aorta, your body’s main artery, and to other areas of the body. “Stenosis” or narrowing of the valve may occur as a result of calcium buildup, causing thickening and hardening of the valve, and making it more difficult for blood to flow freely. Aortic stenosis, also called aortic valve stenosis, may also be caused by infections, such as endocarditis, or rheumatic fever, caused by strep throat complications. In some people, aortic stenosis is congenital, something they were born with.

Symptoms and diagnosis of aortic valve stenosis

The narrowing process usually takes many years and symptoms may not come on for some time. When symptoms appear, they are usually triggered by exercise and may include:

  • Angina
  • Dizziness
  • Faintness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Shortness of breath, tiredness

Another sign of aortic stenosis is a heart murmur, which may be detected by your doctor during a routine physical exam. At that point, your doctor may recommend some additional testing, such as an echocardiogram, which takes moving pictures of your heart. Additional tests may include an MRI, an exercise stress test, electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG), and diagnostic cardiac catheterization.

Treatment for mild aortic valve stenosis may include some combination of dietary change along with medication and ongoing monitoring by your primary care physician. In more severe cases, stenosis may lead to heart failure and other heart conditions that may require advanced therapies and surgical treatments, such as surgical aortic valve replacement (SAVR) or transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR).

To schedule an appointment with a Lankenau Heart Institute specialist, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.