Aortic Stenosis

As many as 300,000 people in the United States are diagnosed each year with severe aortic stenosis, a condition in which the aortic valve does not open fully due to a thickening of the valve leaflets. This thickening makes it difficult for the leaflets to open and close, which decreases blood flow from the heart to the body. The condition may cause the heart to work harder to pump blood.

Severe aortic stenosis is often unpreventable and may be related to:

  • Age
  • Buildup of calcium deposits which causes narrowing
  • Radiation therapy
  • Medications
  • History of rheumatic fever or high cholesterol

There are two main types of aortic stenosis:

Congenital aortic stenosis occurs in those who were born with a narrowed aortic valve, or a valve with two leaflets versus three. Symptoms may not appear until adulthood or later in life.

Acquired aortic stenosis develops later in life when calcium builds up on the edges of two or three of the flaps, causing them to fuse together. This may occur in people who have had rheumatic fever or as part of the aging process.

Aortic Stenosis Symptoms

Patients with aortic stenosis may have no symptoms or may experience:

  • Chest discomfort or tightness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting

Treatment

Aortic stenosis can be treated either medically or surgically depending on severity and/or symptoms. Surgical treatment may consist of repair of the valve leaflets or replacement of the valve. Surgery can be either an open repair or minimally invasive, based on your individual case.

Open Surgical Aortic Valve Replacement

Open surgical aortic valve replacement (SAVR) is the treatment of choice for aortic stenosis patients. During the procedure, the valve leaflets are repaired or the damaged valve is removed and replaced with a new valve. Visit our Surgical Aortic Valve Replacement page to learn more about this open-heart procedure.

Minimally Invasive Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement

For aortic stenosis patients who are not candidates for open-heart surgery, we offer multiple minimally invasive, percutaneous (through the skin) options for aortic valve replacement. Known as transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), the procedures involve the use of a catheter threaded through small incisions to access the valve leaflets and repair them or to access the damaged aortic valve and insert a new valve. Visit our Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement page to learn more about minimally invasive procedures.

Make an Appointment

To make an appointment to discuss your aortic valve disease and whether you are a candidate for a heart valve replacement, call the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center at 888-287-1082 or email us at CVCCallCtr@med.umich.edu. Visit our Make an Appointment page for more information about what to expect when you call us.