Aortic Valve Disease

1 What is Aortic Valve Disease?

Aortic valve disease is characterized by abnormal functioning of the aortic valve. The valve is present between left ventricle and aorta, the largest blood vessel in the body. Aortic valve disease may be congenital or due to other conditions. There are two major types of aortic valve disease: 

  • Aortic valve stenosis – this represents narrowing of aortic valve. Narrow valve obstructs the flow of blood from the ventricle into the aorta.
  • Aortic valve regurgitation – this condition is characterized by incomplete closure of the valve that causes the blood to flow back into the ventricle.

These conditions cause the heart to work harder to pump blood, leading to the weakening of muscles in heart and blood vessels. Surgical heart valve replacement is needed to restore the functioning of heart.

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2 Symptoms

Both aortic valve stenosis and aortic valve regurgitation have similar symptoms. Symptoms of aortic valve diseases often appear after several years. Chest pain during physical strain is a common symptom. The pain in the chest resolves during rest.

Most common symptoms of aortic stenosis include:

Patients with aortic stenosis are recommended not to take strenuous physical exercise.

Aortic regurgitation is characterized by:

3 Causes

Aortic stenosis is caused by:

  • Congenital condition that causes wear and tear of the bicuspid valve
  • Wear and tear of the valve in elderly
  • Scarring of the valve due to rheumatic fever

Bicuspid valve, instead of normal tricuspid valve, is one of the common cause of aortic stenosis in people under the age of 65 years. The bicuspid fails to open fully and impedes the flow of blood in the blood vessel. This causes wear and tear of the valve.

In people above 65 years, collagen protein in the valve is destroyed. Calcium deposits in the valve cause thickening and scarring of the valve. This reduces the mobility of the valve, leading to stenosis. In rheumatic fever the edges of the valve fuses, damaging the functioning.

Aortic valve regurgitation is caused by:

  • Congenital heart valve disease – fusion of the edges of the valve or presence of bicuspid valve increases the risk of regurgitation.
  • Endocarditis – Infection of heart and valves leads to valve damage
  • Rheumatic fever – this is a complication of strep throat and is a common cause of heart valve disease
  • Disease – many conditions that lead to enlargement of heart like Marfan syndrome and connective tissue disease result in aortic regurgitation
  • Trauma – injury to chest or aortic wall tear cause trauma and lead to backward flow of blood from the aorta to ventricle.

4 Making A Diagnosis

Review of medical history and family history of heart diseases is the first step in the diagnosis of aortic valve diseases. ECG plots the electric impulses indicating the heart rhythm. Exercise test is used to assess the response of heart to exertion.

Echocardiogram and chest X-ray are also used in the diagnosis of the condition. Cardiac catheterization, a procedure in which a dye is injected into the blood vessel to plot leakages in blood vessel, is also prescribed. A more detailed picture of the heart and aorta is obtained by cardiac MRI.

5 Treatment

Aortic valve replacement is the most common surgical treatment for aortic valve diseases. In this procedure, the dysfunctional valve is replaced with a new one from a human donor or an animal. Mechanical valves are also used to replace the diseased valve. But, this method of surgical repair requires lifetime medication of anticoagulant like warfarin to prevent formation of blood clots.

Balloon valvuloplasty is another procedure to replace the valve. In this procedure a thin catheter with a balloon at the tip is inserted into the blood vessel. It is then guided to the valve where the balloon is inflated. Inflated balloon widens the valve opening and allows the flow of blood without obstruction.

Balloon valvuloplasty is usually recommended for children, as in adults there are chances of valve narrowing later.

Medications are used to regulate blood pressure and to prevent the buildup of fluid. Medications are suggested to control disturbances in heart rhythm. Beta and calcium blockers are used to control angina. Blood cholesterol levels can be controlled by statins.

6 Prevention

The development of aortic valve disease can be prevented by:

  • Preventing rheumatic and scarlet fever
  • Practicing good dental hygiene – this is important to prevent blood infections that lead to endocarditis, one of the major risk factors for aortic heart valve disease.
  • Maintaining a healthy heart – to lower the risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels.

7 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

Several alternative and homeopathic remedies exist for Aortic valve disease.

Digitalis, kalmia, lithium Carbonate, Naja, Rhus Tox, Spigelia, Spongia, Aconite, Adonis Vernalis, Amyl Nitrosum, Arsenic Album, Arsenic Iod, Aurum Muriaticum, Baryta Carbonica, Cactus, Calcarea Carb, Chelidonium, Crotalus H, Glonoinum, Kali Carb, Kali Iod, Lachesis, Lycopodium, Strophanthus Hispidus, Apis Mellifica, and Apocynum are used in homeopathy to control aortic regurgitation.

Fish oil with omega-3 fatty acids is considered to be good for controlling heart diseases. Coenzyme Q10 helps to maintain healthy blood vessels. It also supports optimal functioning of the muscles of heart.

8 Lifestyle and Coping

Lifestyle modifications are necessary in order to cope with Aortic valve disease.

Controlling blood pressure, having a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy body weight, regular exercise, and regular check-ups are the best self-management tips for controlling symptoms of aortic valve disease.

9 Risks and Complications

Aortic valve diseases increase the risk of endocarditis, the infection of inner lining of heart. Serious form of aortic valve dysfunction may lead to heart failure.

Aortic stenosis may lead to fainting, irregular heart rhythms, cardiac arrest, and chest pain.