Aortic valve stenosis is a heart condition in which the valve to the biggest artery- the one which provides oxygen-rich blood to our body, called aorta, is narrowed. This prevents the valve from opening fully, obstructing the blood flow from your heart into your body.
When the aortic valve doesn’t open, your heart needs to work harder to pump blood to your body making the heart muscle weak. If left undiagnosed aortic stenosis is fatal.
These symptoms should spur you on to seek medical care right away:
Chest pain or tightness
Feeling faint with exertion
Fatigue after increased activity
Heart palpitations — rapid, fluttering heartbeat
The disorder doesn’t produce symptoms right away and is usually diagnosed during routine physical exams when your doctor listens to your heart with a stethoscope. He usually hears a heart murmur resulting from turbulent blood flow through the narrowed aortic valve.
There are other ways to diagnose aortic valve stenosis and gauge the severity of the problem, like:
Echocardiogram – This produces an image of your heart using sound. It is the primary test to diagnose a heart valve problem. Sound waves are directed at your heart here and these bounce off your heart and are processed electronically to provide images of your heart. This test helps your doctor check diagnose aortic valve stenosis and its severity plus chalk out a treatment plan.
Electrocardiogram (ECG) – In this test, patches with electrodes are attached to your chest to measure electrical impulses given out by your heart. These are then recorded as waves on a monitor and printed on paper. Though this can’t diagnose aortic stenosis directly, it can tell you that the left ventricle in your heart is thickened which normally happens due to aortic stenosis.
Chest X-ray – This allows the doctor to see the shape and size of your heart directly. If the left ventricle is thickened, it points to aortic stenosis. It also helps doctor check the lungs. Aortic stenosis leads to fluid and blood in the lungs, causing congestion.
Exercise Tests – Exercise is used to increase your heart rate and make your heart work harder. This test is done to see how your heart reacts to exertion.
Computerised Tomography (CT) Scan – This means a series of X-rays to create images of your heart and observes the heart valves. It is also used to measure the size of aorta and the aortic valve.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) – This uses powerful magnets and radio waves to create images of your heart and valves.
Once aortic valve stenosis is confirmed, you may have to go in for monitoring or heart valve surgery according to your doctor’s advice.