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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
What is aortic stenosis?
Aortic stenosis is a condition where the aortic valve in your heart is narrowed. The aortic valve is between the left ventricle and the aorta. The left ventricle is the lower left chamber of your heart. The aorta is a blood vessel that pumps blood to your head and body. The aortic valve opens and closes to direct blood flow through your heart. When the aortic valve is narrowed, blood flow may decrease. Your tissues and organs will not have enough oxygen and nutrients to function properly.
What causes aortic stenosis?
- Calcium buildup: As you age, calcium can build up on the aortic valve walls. The calcium stiffens and thickens the valve.
- Congenital heart defect: Some people are born with a damaged aortic valve that leads to narrowing and blockage.
- Rheumatic fever: This is fever and inflammation of your joints. It can develop after you have a strep throat infection. Rheumatic fever can cause inflammation and damage to your aortic valve. The walls of your aortic valve may narrow, and may even join together.
What are the signs and symptoms of aortic stenosis?
- Chest pain or tightness
- Fast, jumpy, or fluttery heartbeat
- Shortness of breath during activity or when you lie down
- Severe tiredness
- Dizziness or feeling faint
How is aortic stenosis diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will ask about your signs and symptoms and listen to your heart. He will ask if you have had strep throat or rheumatic fever in the past. You may need any of the following tests:
- Blood tests: You may need blood taken to give caregivers information about how your body is working. The blood may be taken from your hand, arm, or IV.
- Chest x-ray: This is used to check the size of your heart and look for fluid around your heart and lungs.
- EKG: This test records the electrical activity of your heart. It is used to check for abnormal heart rhythm caused by aortic stenosis.
- An echocardiogram is a type of ultrasound. Sound waves are used to show the structure and function of your heart.
- A stress test may show the changes that take place in your heart while it is under stress. Stress may be placed on your heart with exercise or medicine. Ask for more information about this test.
- Cardiac catheterization: This procedure is done to find and treat heart blockages. A thin, bendable tube is inserted into your arm, neck, or groin and moved into your heart. An x-ray may be used to guide the tube to the right place. Dye may be put into your vein so the pictures show up better on a monitor. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.
How is aortic stenosis treated?
- Medicines: You may have the following medicines to improve your symptoms or prevent problems caused by aortic stenosis:
- Cholesterol medicine: This medicine will help decrease the amount of cholesterol in your blood.
- Antibiotics: This medicine will help fight or prevent an infection. You may need it if you had rheumatic fever in the past. You may need to take the medicine every day, or once a month.
- Valvotomy: This helps widen your aortic valve and allow blood to flow through easier. A catheter (long thin tube) with a balloon on the tip is inserted through a small incision in your arm or groin. The catheter is guided through a blood vessel and into your left atrium near your aortic valve. When the balloon is inflated, it stretches the valve opening.
- Valvuloplasty: Healthcare providers make an incision in your chest to repair and widen your aortic valve. The valve walls are separated or calcium buildup is removed. This helps improve the blood flow through your heart.
- Replacement: Healthcare Providers make an incision in your chest to replace your damaged aortic valve. Part or all of your aortic valve is removed, and a new valve is secured in place. The new valve may be from a donor (another person or animal), or may be a manmade valve.
What are the risks of aortic stenosis?
Aortic stenosis may cause endocarditis. Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of the heart. Aortic stenosis can also cause congestive heart failure (CHF). This is when the heart cannot pump enough blood for the body. This may cause irregular heartbeats and can lead to cardiac arrest (the heart stops beating). This can be life-threatening.
How can I manage my symptoms?
- Eat a variety of healthy foods: Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. Ask if you need to be on a special diet.
- Exercise: This will improve your heart health. Ask your healthcare provider about the best exercise plan for you.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Ask your healthcare provider how much you should weigh. Ask him to help you create a weight loss plan if you are overweight.
When should I contact my healthcare provider?
- You are bleeding from your nose or gums.
- The veins in your neck look swollen or are bulging.
- You have a fever.
- You have blood in your urine or bowel movements.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
When should I seek immediate care or call 911?
- Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
- Your heart is beating faster than normal for you, and you feel fluttering in your chest.
- You suddenly feel lightheaded and short of breath.
- You have chest pain that feels like squeezing, pressure, fullness, or pain.
- You have chest pain that lasts for more than a few minutes or returns.
- You are nauseated and have trouble breathing.
- You have a severe headache, cold sweats, and feel lightheaded or dizzy.
- You have weakness or numbness on one side of your arm, leg, or face.
- You are confused and cannot speak clearly.
Care AgreementYou have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.
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