Aortic valve stenosis means narrowing of this portion of the aorta – one of the body’s “great vessels” – which supplies blood throughout the body.
The percentage of seniors with aortic valve stenosis (AVS) is sobering. It is 30 percent. Marco Costa, MD, says: “The aortic valve is a gatekeeper.” A malfunctioning valve means diminished blood flow to the body.
Symptoms may be fatigue, fainting, poor kidney function, stroke and heart failure. If left untreated, this condition will kill half of patients, continues Dr. Costa, of University Hospitals Case Medical in Cleveland. “Patients with aortic valve stenosis must be evaluated by a heart specialist to determine the best options for therapy.”
How is aortic valve stenosis treated?
Traditionally, treatment consists of invasive surgery to replace the aortic valve, or a symptom-relieving balloon valvuloplasty. There is a new option, however, called transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI), which is minimally invasive.
TAVI involves a prosthesis called Medtronic CoreValve. A surgeon delivers the prosthesis through the femoral (thigh) artery, or subclavian (beneath collar bone) artery, and the device expands into the area of the stenosis (narrowing). This eliminates the need to remove the diseased structure, and the prosthesis can even be repositioned.
The surgeons at UH Case Medical Center’s TAVI Multidisciplinary Program are leaders with CoreValve implantation. A clinical trail involving about 1,200 patients with severe AVS is underway. TAVI offers hope for elderly patients.
“Many elderly patients may be able to participate in this study,” says Alan Markowitz, MD, Director, Heart Valve Center at UH Case Medical Center, “including those 80 to 90 years of age with kidney, liver or brain diseases, and who are at risk for open heart surgery.” TAVI offers hope for patients who are nearly out of options.
Other symptoms of aortic valve stenosis: chest pain, heart palpitations and heart murmur. What are the risk factors for this condition? Can anybody just develop it? Can certain lifestyle measures prevent it? Here are some known risk factors:
Bicuspid aortic valve. Normally, the structure has three leaflets or flaps, but bicuspid means only two; this is a condition that a person is born with.
Older age, though children can have this condition as a result of a valvular defect.
Calcium deposits on the valve
How is aortic valve stenosis diagnosed? The following four tests are used in the diagnosis of this potentially fatal condition: chest X-ray, cardiac catheterization, echocardiogram and ECG.