One of the most important organs of the body is the heart. It’s main function is to pump oxygenated blood to the rest of the body which is what keeps us alive.
The heart has four chambers, two on the right and two on the left. Blood enters the heart through the right atrium, it then passes to the right ventricle. From the right ventricle the heart pumps blood to the lungs where it receives oxygen and then returns blood into the left atrium. From the left atrium blood then passes to the left ventricle. The heart then pumps blood to the rest of the body from the left ventricle through the aortic valve and into the aorta. When this valve doesn’t function properly, it causes a condition called aortic valve disease.
Aortic valve disease can be due to a birth defect, an infection, the aging process, or an injury to the heart.
There are two main types of aortic valve disease:
Aortic valve stenosis is a condition where the aortic valve opening is narrowed due the valve flaps being either thickened, fused or too stiff. This leads to reduced blood flow from the heart to the aorta. This can be caused by a calcium buildup on the valve leaflets. A history of rheumatic fever can also lead to aortic valve stenosis.
Aortic valve regurgitation is a condition where blood flows back into the heart from the aorta due to the valve flaps being weakened and unable to keep the blood flowing in only one direction. This may be due to a birth defect that worsens over time.
Aortic valve disease can cause the following symptoms:
- Heart murmur
- Shortness of breath
- Swollen ankles
- Chest pain
- Irregular heartbeat
Aortic valve disease can lead to heart related complications such as stroke, blood clots, heart failure, and death.
Diagnosing aortic valve disease is done by a physician who will take a full medical history and listen to the heart with a stethoscope to determine if there are signs of a murmur. Diagnostic tests will foloow and these include an electrocardiogram, an echocardiogram and a chest x-ray to determine if the heart appears enlarged. Other tests that may be performed are a CT scan, a MRI, and a stress test.
Treatment options depend on the severity of the disease. They can range from lifestyle changes, such as stress reduction, smoking cessation, and diet modification, and possibly prescribing medications to control heart function. In more severe cases surgery to repair or replace the valve may be necessary.
If you would like to schedule an appointment with a cardiologist at Flushing Hospital Medical Center please call 718-670-5486.
All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.