Aortic Stenosis

Make an Appointment

The aortic valve is located between the left ventricle of the heart and the aorta, which is the largest artery in the body. The aorta supplies blood throughout the body.

Aortic stenosis (AS) is a narrowing of the aortic valve that blocks blood flow from the heart and causes pressure in the heart and lungs.

Causes of AS

The main causes of AS include:

  • A birth defect of the aortic valve, which normally has three cusps:
    • A two-part aortic valve becomes stenotic with progressive wear and tear
    • An aortic valve that has only one cusp or has stenosis from birth
  • Progressive hardening and calcification of the aortic valve with age
  • Scarring of the aortic valve caused by rheumatic fever 

Are You at Risk?

Factors that may increase the risk of AS include:

  • Male gender
  • Family members with heart disease that affects the valves
  • History of rheumatic fever
  • Hypertension
  • Hypercholesterolemia
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Smoking

AS does not always produce symptoms. But if symptoms do occur, they may include:

  • Extreme fatigue after exercise or exertion
  • Fainting with exercise or exertion
  • Pain, squeezing, pressure, or tightness of the chest usually occurring with exertion
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lightheadedness with exertion
  • Neurological symptoms of a stroke or transient ischemic attack

In rare cases, AS can cause abnormal heart rhythms known as arrhythmia, or sudden death with no previous symptoms.

Diagnosing AS

Your doctor may recognize AS by the following:

  • Abnormal chest sounds such as a heart murmur or clicking sound
  • Noticeable chest heave or vibration when the a hand is held over your heart

Images may need to be taken of your chest. This can be done with:

  • Chest x-ray
  • Electrocardiogram
  • Echocardiogram
  • Cardiac catheterization

AS Treatment Options at UVA

If you have mild AS, your condition will be monitored, but may not need immediate treatment. If you have more severe AS, your doctor may advise you to avoid strenuous physical activity. If necessary, you may be given medications to help prevent heart failure. Severe AS may require surgery. Options include:

Balloon Valvuloplasty

A balloon device is passed through the arteries to open or enlarge the stenotic aortic valve. This may provide temporary relief of symptoms. However, since the valve can become blocked again, this treatment is not a permanent solution.

Aortic Valve Replacement

This is the surgical replacement of a defective heart valve. There are two approaches to aortic valve replacement.

How to Prevent AS

AS is not preventable. But if you have AS, there are several things you can do to try to avoid some of the complications, such as:

  • Get regular medical care, including exams and tests.
  • Only certain people with AS need antibiotics before dental or medical procedures. Ask your doctor if you need antibiotics to prevent infection of the heart valve. 


Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.