November 11, 2021

What to know about aortic stenosis

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This valve issue can cause heart muscle to weaken as the heart works harder to push blood.

The aortic valve is one of the heart’s four valves. It’s on the left side of the heart. It sits between the left lower chamber (left ventricle) and the large blood vessel that sends blood to the body (aorta).

Aortic stenosis means the aortic valve has a problem opening. With aortic stenosis, the left ventricle has to work harder to push the blood through the valve. In some cases, this extra work will make the muscle of the ventricle thicken. In time, the extra work can tire the heart and cause the heart muscle to weaken. Stenosis usually gets worse slowly, over many years. But sometimes it can get worse quickly.

Possible causes of aortic stenosis

Calcium deposits can form on the aortic valve with age. These deposits make the valve stiff and hard to open. Some people are born with an abnormal aortic valve. Or the aortic valve may have been damaged by rheumatic fever or a heart infection. Radiation therapy used as treatment for cancers such as lymphoma can be another possible cause.

Treatment for aortic stenosis

In many cases, treatment won’t be needed unless you have symptoms. If you do have symptoms, medicines may help ease them.

If the stenosis is severe, your doctor may suggest surgery to replace the valve. Or you may have a catheter-based procedure (transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR) to replace the valve, even if you aren’t feeling symptoms.

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Vanderbilt University Medical Center is a leader in treating heart valve disease with the newest transcatheter techniques. Vanderbilt’s team includes general cardiologists, interventional cardiologists and cardiac surgeons, all with advanced training and expertise in structural heart and valve disease. They treat patients with diseases of the aortic, mitral or tricuspid valve, from the routine to the complex.

Download a free treatment guide