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 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago

Aortic Valve Disease Conditions

The most common types of aortic valve disease are:

  • Aortic Stenosis
  • Aortic Regurgitation

Both of these conditions cause the heart to work less efficiently, forcing it to work harder in order to maintain an adequate amount of blood flow to the body.

Over time, as these conditions become more severe, this added workload on the heart may result in heart failure.

What is Aortic Stenosis?


Aortic stenosis is a condition in which the leaflets (or cusps) of the aortic valve become restricted in their ability to move.

This is most often caused by a buildup of calcium that narrows the valve opening and decreases the blood flow from the heart.

What is Aortic Regurgitation?


Aortic regurgitation is a condition that occurs when one or more of the cusps of the aortic valve are stretched, torn, or stiffened, preventing full closure of the valve after each heartbeat. This allows blood to flow backward through the valve, and is why it's also referred to as leaky valve.



The Center for Heart Valve Disease uses advanced diagnostic imaging tools such as echocardiography and cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to assess both the condition of the aortic valve and overall heart function. This hemodynamic assessment (using sophisticated imaging tools to assess flow of blood), allows for the physicians to accurately diagnose the extent of the aortic valve disease to help them devise optimal strategies for management.



Patients who have aortic stenosis fall into different degrees of severity:

  • Mild
  • Moderate
  • Moderate-Severe
  • Severe

For patients who are asymptomatic, serial (routinely repeated) testing using echocardiography can help physicians determine the severity of the impairment caused by the valve disease, by revealing the anatomic effects of aortic disease on your heart and allowing measurement of the heart function and dimensions of the left ventricle (chamber).

Physician-supervised exercise tolerance testing can also be useful in determining the degree of severity of the valve disease. 

Cardiac Magnetic Resonance Imaging

A cardiac (and vascular) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) provides very detailed images of the heart and blood vessels, including:
  • Function
  • Possible damage
  • Shape
  • Size
A magnetic field and radiowaves are used to create images and make the diagnosis of specific diseases. No radiation or X-rays are used for this test. MRI can:
  • Limit the need for more invasive testing
  • Last about 60 minutes
  • Require specially-trained physicians
  • Use new and complex computer software



For more information regarding aortic valve disease and the treatments available, please contact the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute at 1-866-662-8467 or request a first time appointment online.

Last UpdateMay 31, 2013