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 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago

Overview

The aortic valve is one of four valves in the heart. When working properly, it ensures blood flow out of the heart to the rest of the body.

The aortic valve is housed within the aortic root of the heart, which provides structural support for it within the first portion of the aorta, the largest artery in the body.

When problems arise in the aortic valve, it can cause too much pressure to build because the valve isn't opening fully (aortic stenosis), or it can cause too much blood volume because the valve isn't closely properly (aortic regurgitation).

The Center for Heart Valve Disease Team

 

The Center for Heart Valve Disease at Northwestern Memorial Hospital has a multidisciplinary team to diagnose and treat aortic valve disease. The team includes cardiologists and cardiac surgeons who have specialized training with aortic valve disease.

Patients within the Center for Heart Valve Disease are closely followed by a heart valve coordinator who is available to answer questions and assist patients and referring cardiologists.

 


 

 

The aortic valve has three cusps. Because the cusps are shaped like half moons, the aortic valve is referred to as a semilunar valve. The aortic valve regulates oxygen rich blood flow from the left ventricle to the aorta, where blood is delivered to the rest of the body.

There are two main diseases or malfunctions of heart valves: regurgitation (valve does not close tightly) and stenosis (valve does not open fully). Regurgitation and stenosis disrupt the heart cycle because the heart valves fail to open and close properly, resulting in improper blood flow through the heart.

Aortic Valve Stenosis

  • Overview: Aortic valve stenosis is a disease in which the aortic valve opening does not open wide enough, inhibiting the ability of the heart to pump blood to the body due to the increased force required to pump blood through the stenotic (stiff) valve.
     
  • Signs and Symptoms: The usual symptoms are chest pain, shortness of breath, and lightheadedness. The symptoms develop depending on how severe the stenosis is in the aortic valve.
  • Causes: The most common causes of aortic valve stenosis include rheumatic fever (inflammatory disease that may develop after an infection with streptococcus bacteria—such as strep throat or scarlet fever), hypercholesterolemia (excess cholesterol in the blood), and congenital bicuspid aortic valve (aortic valve has only two cusps rather than the normal three cusps).
  • Risk Factors: Risk factors include hypercholesterolemia, smoking, obesity, and hypertension (high blood pressure).
  • Diagnosis - Screening/Tests: An echocardiogram is a non-invasive test that uses high-frequency sound waves to create a moving picture of the heart chambers, the heart valves, and major blood vessels located near the heart.
  • Complications: Complications include endocarditis (an infection that affects the lining of the heart's chambers and the heart valves).
  • Treatment: Treatment options include aortic valve replacement in a surgical center that performs a high volume of aortic valve replacement procedures and antibiotics prior to dental procedures.
  • Prevention: Risk factors for calcific aortic stenosis are similar to atherosclerosis (thickening and hardening of arteries) and include age, family history, smoking, hypertension, obesity and stress. Clinical studies for secondary prevention (prevention of further disease progression) are ongoing in the United States, Europe and Canada.

Aortic Valve Insufficiency/Regurgitation

  • Overview: Aortic valve insufficiency/regurgitation is a disease in which the aortic valve does not close completely, causing blood to flow backward instead of forward through the valve. Aortic regurgitation results from intrinsic (causes or factors within the body) structural abnormalities of the aortic valve or the ascending aorta or both.
     
  • Signs and Symptoms: Signs and symptoms include shortness of breath and fatigue.
     
  • Causes: Common causes of aortic valve insufficiency/regurgitation include rheumatic fever, congenital bicuspid aortic valve, infective aortic valve endocarditis (an infection that affects the lining of the heart's chambers and the heart valves), collagen vascular diseases, and degenerative valve disease.
     
  • Risk Factors: Risk factors include rheumatic fever.
     
  • Diagnosis - Screening/Tests: An echocardiogram is a non-invasive test that uses high-frequency sound waves to create a moving picture of the heart chambers, the heart valves, and major blood vessels located near the heart.
     
  • Complications: Complications include endocarditis.
     
  • Treatment: Treatment options include the administration of antibiotics prior to dental procedures.
     
  • Prevention: Prevention includes careful follow-up with a cardiologist and echocardiogram testing.

Contact

For more information regarding the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute, please call 1-866-662-8467 or request a first time appointment online.

Last UpdateJune 3, 2013
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