Aortic sclerosis is the abnormal thickening of the aortic valve. The presence of aortic sclerosis has been associated with a 50% increased risk of heart attacks and cardiovascular death when compared to people with a normal aortic valve (Otto CM, Lind BK, Kitzman DW, Gersh BJ, Siscovick DS.
Association of aortic-valve sclerosis with cardiovascular mortality
and morbidity in the elderly. N Engl J Med 1999;341:142–7.
Aortic stenosis is progression of the aortic valve thickening. The valve does not open fully making the valve opening narrow. This leads to the heart having to work harder to pump blood out to the body. Over time, this can cause the heart muscle to weaken developing heart failure. Usually the symptoms are shortness of breath, fainting/near-fainting, chest pain with activity.
Echocardiograms or ultrasounds of the heart are a great non-invasive painless way of determining if aortic sclerosis or stenosis is present. It can also tell our physicians if the heart muscle has started to weaken.
Non-severe forms of aortic stenosis are usually treated with medicines and regular check ups. If the aortic stenosis is very tight or severe, and symptoms develop (such as shortness of breath, chest pain, fainting) then treatment is very likely. A surgical open valve replacement is the gold standard therapy. At HCVA, our physicians work closely with cardiothoracic surgeons with impecable surgical outcomes, if surgery is deemed necessary.
Unfortunately, for some reason or another, some patients are not surgical candidates despite their need for a new valve. Before we had nothing to offer. But now, technology has allowed us to offer a minimally invasive catheter procedure to implant heart valves in patients who are NOT surgical candidates. This procedure called Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement, or TAVR, does not require open heart surgery, generally requires a shorter hospital stay, and less heart and lung complications.
If you have any questions about aortic valve disease, call the office to schedule an appointment.