Overview

Aortic valve disease is a condition in which the valve between the main pumping chamber of your heart (left ventricle) and the main artery to your body (aorta) doesn't work properly. Aortic valve disease may be a condition present at birth (congenital heart disease), or it may result from other causes.

Types of aortic valve disease include:

Aortic valve stenosis

In this condition, the flaps (cusps) of the aortic valve may become thickened and stiff, or they may fuse together. This causes narrowing of the aortic valve opening. The narrowed valve isn't able to open fully, which reduces or blocks blood flow from your heart into your aorta and the rest of your body.

Aortic valve regurgitation

In this condition, the aortic valve doesn't close properly, causing blood to flow backward into the left ventricle.

Your treatment depends on the type and severity of your aortic valve disease. In some cases you may need surgery to repair or replace the aortic valve.

Symptoms

Some people with aortic valve disease may not experience symptoms for many years. Signs and symptoms of aortic valve disease may include:

  • Abnormal heart sound (heart murmur) heard through a stethoscope
  • Shortness of breath, particularly when you have been very active or when you lie down
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Fatigue after being active or having less ability to be active
  • Not eating enough (mainly in children with aortic valve stenosis)
  • Not gaining enough weight (mainly in children with aortic valve stenosis)
  • Swelling of the ankles and feet

When to see a doctor

If you have a heart murmur, your doctor may recommend that you visit a cardiologist. If you develop any symptoms that may suggest aortic valve disease, see your doctor.

Causes

Your heart has four valves that keep blood flowing in the correct direction. These valves include the mitral valve, tricuspid valve, pulmonary valve and aortic valve. Each valve has flaps (cusps or leaflets) that open and close once during each heartbeat. Sometimes, the valves don't open or close properly, disrupting the blood flow through your heart and potentially impairing the ability to pump blood to your body.

In aortic valve disease, the aortic valve between the lower left heart chamber (left ventricle) and the main artery that delivers blood from the heart to the body (aorta) doesn't work properly. It may not be closing properly, which causes blood to leak backward to the left ventricle (regurgitation), or the valve may be narrowed (stenosis).

Aortic valve disease may be caused by a heart defect present at birth (congenital). It can also be caused by other conditions, including age-related changes to the heart, infections, high blood pressure or injury to the heart.

Risk factors

Risk factors of aortic valve disease include:

  • Older age
  • Certain heart conditions present at birth (congenital heart disease)
  • History of infections that can affect the heart
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • History of radiation therapy to the chest

Complications

Aortic valve disease can cause complications, including:

  • Heart failure
  • Stroke
  • Blood clots
  • Heart rhythm abnormalities
  • Death