Aortic Valve Disease

The normal heart has two upper and two lower chambers. The upper chambers called “right and left atrium” collect blood flowing in from the body and in from the lungs. The lower chambers called “ventricles” collect blood from the atria then pump it forcefully out. The right ventricle pumps out to the lungs while the left ventricle pumps to the aorta.

Aortic valve disease

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The heart valves, which keep blood flowing in the right direction, are gates at the chamber openings. Each of these valves have flaps (cusps) that open and close once during each heartbeat. The aortic valve is one of the main valves on the left side of the heart. The aortic valve has three flaps. It opens when the left ventricle squeezes to pump out blood, and closes in between heart beats to keep blood from going backward into the heart. In aortic valve disease, the aortic valve may not be closing properly, which causes blood to leak backward to the left ventricle (regurgitation), or the valve may be narrowed (stenosis).

Causes of Aortic Valve Disease

Aortic valve disease may be caused by a heart defect present at birth (congenital). However, other conditions, traits or habits may also raise your risk for the disease. These conditions are known as risk factors and include:

Non-modifiable risk factors: These factors are irreversible and cannot be changed. The more of these risk factors you have, the greater your chance of developing aortic valve disease.

  • Older age
  • Family history/Genetics

Modifiable risk factors: These factors can be modified, treated or controlled through medications or lifestyle changes.

Other conditions that contribute to development of aortic valve disease

  • Endocarditis
  • Rheumatic fever
  • Autoimmune disease: a condition in which your immune system mistakenly attacks your body (e.g. lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and scleroderma).
  • Trauma from injury
  • End-stage renal disease: a condition in which your kidneys have stopped working well and your body retains fluid.

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:

  • Chest pain, pressure, discomfort or tightness
  • Lightheadedness/Fainting
  • Fatigue after being active or having less ability to be active
  • Heart arrhythmias
  • Heart murmur: a whooshing or swishing sound heard by your doctor through a stethoscope
  • Not eating enough/gaining enough weight in children with aortic valve stenosis
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling of the ankles and feet

Diagnosis of Aortic Valve Disease

To diagnose aortic valve disease, your doctor may review your signs and symptoms, discuss your and your family's medical history, and conduct a physical examination. Your doctor may listen to your heart with a stethoscope to determine if you have a heart murmur that may indicate an aortic valve condition. Your doctor may order several tests to diagnose your condition, and determine the cause and severity of your condition, including:

Diagnostic tests and procedures

Treatment of Aortic Valve Disease

Treatment for aortic valve disease depends on the severity of your condition, whether you're experiencing signs and symptoms, and if your condition is getting worse. If your symptoms are mild or you aren't experiencing symptoms, your doctor may monitor your condition with regular follow-up appointments. Other treatment options include:

Lifestyle changes: All patients with heart valve disease should talk to their doctor about the managed risk of getting infective endocarditis. This infection can greatly damage or destroy the heart valves, and can be fatal. Recommended changes include:

  • Call your doctor if you have symptoms of an infection.
  • Take antibiotics before any dental procedures, surgeries, or invasive tests.
  • Take good care of your teeth and gums
  • Tell your doctor and dentist that you have heart valve disease.
  • Avoid smoking
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet
  • Exercise under the directions of your doctor.
  • If you're overweight, talk to your doctor about weight-loss options.
  • Manage stress
  • Make and keep appointments to see your doctor for routine check-ups and follow-up tests.

Medications

  • Antiarrhythmic medications will help control your heart’s rhythm.
  • Anticoagulants “blood-thinners” will help treat, prevent, and reduce blood clotting.
  • Beta blockers will help reduce your blood pressure.
  • Diuretics “water pills” will help reduce the amount of fluid retention in your body.

Medical and surgical procedures

Saint Barnabas Medical Center
94 Old Short Hills Road
Livingston, NJ 07039
(973) 322-5000
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Newark Beth Israel Medical Center
201 Lyons Avenue at Osborne Terrace
Newark, NJ 07112
(973) 926-7000
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Jersey City Medical Center
355 Grand Street
Jersey City, NJ 07302
(201) 915-2000
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Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
1 Robert Wood Johnson Place
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
(732) 828-3000
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Aortic Valve Disease Treatment & Care

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