Valvular aortic stenosis is a congenital heart defect created by an abnormally-formed aortic valve. The condition may be discovered during routine prenatal ultrasounds and confirmed with an echocardiogram during pregnancy. In other cases, it results in a noticeable heart murmur in infancy that can be detected during an exam and diagnosed by an echocardiogram.
A normal aortic valve, made up of three leaflets, is known as a tricuspid valve. It allows blood to flow in one direction – from the left ventricle to the body. A healthy valve then snaps shut to prevent blood from flowing from the body back into the heart.
Heart with Valvular Aortic Stenosis
A valve with aortic stenosis may have only two leaflets (called a bicuspid valve) or it may have three leaflets that are abnormally developed. In addition, the valve opening may be too small. An abnormal valve may not be able to close properly, allowing blood from the body to flow back into the heart. This inefficiency places stress on the left side of the heart.
Aortic stenosis tends to worsen over time, and symptoms vary depending on the severity of the stenosis. Mild stenosis may not cause any noticeable symptoms until adulthood. Regular checkups may be all that is needed.
Newborns with severe aortic stenosis will develop congestive heart failure with symptoms of poor feeding, rapid breathing, sweating, fatigue, and irritability. Treatment options include surgical and nonsurgical methods.