What is Aortic Valve Disease?

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The two most common conditions affecting the aortic valve's ability to regulate blood flow are:

Aortic stenosis: a narrowing of the orifice (opening) of the valve most often caused by age-related degenerative changes, calcium deposits, or a bicuspid valve (two leaflets instead of three). The constricted valve limits blood from flowing out of the heart and into the rest of the body.

Aortic Stenosis
Image Courtesy of Edwards Lifesciences

Aortic regurgitation or insufficiency: a condition where the valve does not close normally. This allows blood to leak back or “regurgitate” into the heart rather than flowing forward and supplying blood to the organs.

The heart of those who suffer from aortic valve disease has to work harder to pump blood to the body. Eventually this will cause a weakening of the heart muscle increasing the risk of irreversible damage and heart failure. Someone with aortic valve disease will experience:

  • Shortness of breath, particularly during exertion
  • Chest pain (angina)
  • Heart palpitations
  • Weakness and tiredness
  • Dizziness and fainting

These symptoms will cause a decrease in one's quality of life and can be life-threatening if left untreated.  In fact about half of those with severe aortic stenosis who are symptomatic, on average, will live no longer than two-years following diagnosis.