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Aortic Stenosis: Symptoms & Treatment

Beebe Offers Minimally Invasive Fix for a Narrowed Heart Valve

By Dr. Mouhanad Freih, Interventional Cardiologist

If you regularly experience chest pain or tightness, shortness of breath, dizziness, or if you have fainted during normal activities, you might have a heart condition known as aortic stenosis or a narrowing of the aortic valve. Learn more about the condition and how it can be treated.

What Is Aortic Stenosis?

Aortic stenosis is caused when the leaflets inside your heart valve thicken. These leaflets are responsible for the full opening and full closing of your heart valve as it pumps blood to the rest of your body. If the leaflets become stiff and thickened, then it is more difficult for them to open and close as needed. This makes your heart work harder to pump the blood and because the heart is working harder, you may experience symptoms of dizziness or shortness of breath.

This condition can affect anyone – from 35-year-olds to 80-year-olds.

Common causes of aortic stenosis include:

  • Age
  • Calcium buildup
  • Radiation therapy
  • Infection of the heart
  • Failing aortic surgical valve

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble walking short distances

Aortic stenosis does not develop overnight in most cases. The diseased valve can develop over years depending on each individual’s lifestyle. 

This is why it is important to have a primary care provider – this care team is usually the first to notice a symptom, such as shortness of breath or fatigue. Your provider has the ability to refer you to a cardiologist or let your cardiologist know of these symptoms.

Aortic stenosis can be diagnosed through a number of tests, such as:

  • Chest x-rays
  • Echocardiogram or transesophageal echocardiogram
  • Electrocardiogram
  • Cardiac CT scans
  • Stress tests

If aortic stenosis is diagnosed by your cardiologist, multiple treatment options can be considered.

Mild aortic stenosis can be managed with medication and regular monitoring by your doctor. Lifestyle changes can also help to manage or reduce symptoms.

For symptomatic or severe aortic stenosis, aortic valve replacement is usually required. Typically, this is done with open-heart surgery, where the patient’s chest is surgically separated. It also requires the use of a heart-lung machine, known as a cardiopulmonary bypass machine. 

Open heart surgery is effective for many individuals with aortic stenosis. Another procedure, known as transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), is a minimally invasive procedure that may be an option for patients. 

At Beebe, we strive to provide the innovative technology, procedures, and surgeries that will benefit our community and improve your health.

For several years we have been working to bring TAVR to Lewes. It is a long process that includes lots of physician and cardiology team education.

The procedure is done by interventional cardiology teams in the state-of-the-art hybrid operating room at Beebe’s Margaret H. Rollins Lewes Campus.

During the procedure, a device is inserted through a small incision either in the neck, groin, or a space between ribs. A catheter threads the device to the heart where it is implanted in the faulty heart valve.

By partnering with Medtronic, we are able to provide the latest advancement in TAVR procedures. The Medtronic Evolut PRO+ is an innovative product used during the TAVR procedure. This wire and mesh insert is tiny enough and flexible enough to gain access through smaller vessels as it is threaded to the heart.

This allows the procedure to help those who might have smaller blood vessels. In addition, following the procedure, patients recover more quickly because it is a minimally invasive procedure.

In the past, patients with heart failure or heart valve issues might have had open heart surgery, which takes months for recovery. With this innovative product and the advanced care provided here at Beebe, our patients can expect to start feeling better more quickly.

Patient Stories: Rich Hoffheins' Experience with TAVR