- Aortic stenosis is a heart condition affecting your aortic heart valve.
- Symptoms of aortic stenosis often come on with physical exertion and include feeling tired, feeling breathless, fainting and chest pain.
- The most common cause of aortic stenosis is hardening and scarring of your aortic valve. This happens with age.
- Treatment for aortic stenosis depends on your age, general health, severity of your symptoms and your heart function.
What is aortic stenosis?
Aortic stenosis is a heart condition affecting your aortic heart valve. It can sometimes lead to problems like heart failure.
The aortic valve is like a one-way door letting blood out of your heart to your aorta. The aorta is the artery that carries blood to the rest of your body.
In aortic stenosis, the valve opening is narrowed, making it harder for your heart to pump blood through to your aorta.
What are the symptoms of aortic stenosis?
Symptoms of aortic stenosis often come on with exercise or physical activity. They include:
- feeling short of breath
- chest pain
- fainting or feeling faint
People with aortic stenosis may also have symptoms of heart failure.
Some people with aortic stenosis don’t have any symptoms.
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What causes aortic stenosis?
The most common cause of aortic stenosis is that the aortic valve gets hardened or scarred. This can happen as people get older.
Some things can increase your risk of aortic stenosis. These include:
- having high blood pressure
- having high cholesterol
- having chronic kidney disease
Around 4 in 1000 people are born with an aortic valve that is shaped differently. These people can get aortic stenosis earlier in life.
A less common cause of aortic stenosis is rheumatic heart disease.
When should I see my doctor?
See your doctor straight away if you have symptoms that come on when you are active, including:
- shortness of breath
- feeling faint or fainting
- chest pain
Chest pain can be a symptom of a heart attack. Call triple zero (000) immediately and ask for an ambulance if your chest pain is severe, getting worse or has lasted for 10 minutes.
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How is aortic stenosis diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask you questions and examine you. They might hear a heart murmur when they listen to your heart.
Depending on what they find, you might be asked to have tests such as:
- an ECG (electrocardiogram)
- a chest x-ray
- an echocardiogram, which is an ultrasound of the heart
An ECG gives valuable information about your heart. It will show if the left side of your heart is enlarged from the effort of pumping blood through a narrowed valve.
A chest x-ray can show signs of heart failure.
An echocardiogram shows how efficiently your heart is pumping and whether any of the valves are narrowed or not working properly.
How is aortic stenosis treated?
Treatment for aortic stenosis depends on several factors. These include:
- your age
- your general health
- the severity of your symptoms
- your heart function
If your aortic stenosis is not severe, your doctor may suggest you have regular check-ups to monitor your condition.
Some people with aortic stenosis need an operation or procedure to replace their aortic valve with an artificial one. This is called an aortic valve replacement.
Another procedure is sometimes done where your own aortic valve is opened with a tiny balloon. This doesn't work as well as replacing the valve. It is usually only done as a temporary treatment in certain people.
Treatment for children with aortic stenosis
Children with aortic stenosis can sometimes get their aortic valve repaired. However, if the valve is very abnormal it is better to replace it with a new one.
Using a balloon to stretch the valve can help for a while, but over time the valve can become narrow again. This means that another operation might need to be done.
Complications of aortic stenosis
Untreated aortic stenosis can put a strain on your heart. This can cause complications such as:
- irregular heart rhythms
- heart failure
Resources and support
The Heart Foundation offers support and information for people with heart conditions, including information on how your heart works.
You can also call the healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria). A registered nurse is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
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Last reviewed: November 2022