Updated: Sep 18
Good morning everyone! Thank you for coming back for another day of #AorticDiseaseAwarenessMonth! It was a pleasure meeting some of you yesterday at the Aortic Bridge Walk! Today I am excited to share that we will be discussing our FAVORITE heart valve: the aortic valve!
So picture this - the right side of your heart just got all of the venous, non-oxygenated blood from the body. It effortlessly carries it to the lungs. which give it a beautiful supply of oxygen and feeds it to the left side of the heart. Your left ventricle is now full of oxygen-rich blood. It is now time to pump all of this blood out of the heart and to the rest of the body.
This is where the aortic valve comes into play!
Think of it as a gateway between your heart's left ventricle and your body's aorta. The door from the heart to the rest of the body. Most aortic valves are made up of three thin leaflet cusps, which open and close to allow blood to flow in one direction.
When your heart pumps, the aortic valve leaflets open, allowing oxygenated blood to flow from the left ventricle into the aorta and throughout your body, providing energy and oxygen to your muscles and organs. After the heartbeat, the cusps close tightly, preventing blood from returning to the heart.
Aortic Stenosis: As we get older, calcium and fat deposits along our blood vessels and organs. In aortic valves, this calcification causes it to narrow and harden, making blood flow more restricted between the heart and the the aorta. The heart now has to pump harder and could cause symptoms such as chest pain, dizziness (if your brain doesn’t get enough blood) and in severe cases heart failure.
Sometimes called aortic insufficiency, here the aortic valve doesn't close tightly which causes some blood to leak backward instead of going forward. Symptoms may be similar to stenosis including chest pain and difficult exercising.
Bicuspid Aortic Valve:
In some individuals, the aortic valve may be “bicuspid” meaning only two leaflets form. Two leaflets will now try to do the job of three, making these valves more susceptible to wear and tear. Individuals with bicuspid aortic valves are more likely to develop aortic stenosis or regurgitation earlier in life.
Your doctor can order a variety of tests to view the aortic valve, measure its size and function, and identify and problems of tightness (Stenosis) or leakiness (regurgitation) or leaflet abnormalities (bicuspid).
Some common tests include echocardiogram, CT scan, and EKG. We will be reviewing these more later this week!
The management of aortic valve disease will depend on many factors including age, severity of stenosis or regurgitation, and vascular anatomy.
Your doctor will take an in-depth look at your history and recommend either conservative (medical) treatment to optimize your valve function when appropriate.
If severe aortic stenosis or regurgitation develop the treatment is usually aortic valve replacement using either open heart surgery or newer technologies, such as transcatheter aortic valve replacement. In these kinds of surgeries, a small cut is made in your groin, shoulder or neck, and a small tube-like catheter is used to deliver the valve into position.
Depending on your age and risk factors, either surgery or transcatheter valve replacement will be the best option to ensure long-term valve function.
For more information about the aortic valve and its treatment options, feel free to check out these awesome links!
And that wraps up this amazing session. Thank you for joining us family and until next time, we hope you remember to always #ThinkAorta!"