Aortic Valve Disease

Need Aortic Valve Repair in Orange County? Hoag is at the Heart of Innovation.

As a high-volume cardiac surgical program, Hoag’s Nancy & Bill Thompson Heart Valve Center is making advancements in the diagnosis and treatment of cardiac valve disease every day.

Our expert team of caring, world-class cardiac surgeons and specialists is leading the way on today’s most effective, less-invasive surgical options for replacing or repairing the aortic valve, including a number of complex surgical procedures that just aren’t available at other centers in the region. Need heart valve repair or replacement in Orange County? You deserve the most advanced care available. At Hoag, that’s exactly what you’ll get. Contact us today through our online form or by calling 949-764-8258.

What is Aortic Valve Disease?

Aortic valve disease is a type of heart valve disease that impairs the function of the heart’s aortic valve. It is the most common form of all heart valve diseases. About 60% of the deaths in the U.S. due to heart valve disease are caused by aortic valve disease.

The aortic valve is one of the heart’s four valves and plays a crucial role in healthy cardiovascular function. Located between the bottom left chamber of the heart (also known as the left ventricle) and the aorta – the body’s largest and most crucial blood vessel, responsible for carrying blood from the heart to the rest of the body – the aortic valve operates like a gate, opening to allow blood flow out of the heart and then closing to prevent blood from flowing backward into the left ventricle (also known as aortic valve regurgitation or aortic regurgitation)

A healthy aortic valve ensures efficient blood circulation, maintaining smooth, steady blood flow through the heart and the rest of the body.

Some people have aortic valve disease due to a congenital heart defect, which means the diseased valve resulted from the way the valves and heart chambers developed before a person was born.

In most cases, however, aortic valve disease is caused by other factors, including aging, diseases or medical conditions experienced later in life.

When the aortic valve isn’t working properly, it can cause significant issues with how well the heart pumps blood. Without treatment, this condition may lead to serious symptoms and complications, especially as the disease progresses, including shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), fainting, severe fatigue and, in some cases, cardiac arrest and sudden death.

What are the Different Types of Aortic Valve Disease?

There are different types of aortic valve disease, each affecting the aortic valve and its function in its own way. They include:

Aortic Stenosis

Aortic stenosis is the most common form of aortic valve disease. In those with aortic stenosis, a narrowed aortic valve prevents blood from exiting the heart effectively. In cases of severe aortic stenosis, this narrowing can cause the heart to work harder to pump blood, leading to thickening of the heart muscle.

Aortic Regurgitation

Aortic regurgitation (also known as valve regurgitation) is a type of aortic valve disease that involves a “leaky” aortic valve, with the valve failing to close tightly — a condition known as aortic insufficiency. Aortic insufficiency and aortic regurgitation can result in a situation involving blood flowing backward into the heart.

Bicuspid Aortic Valve

Bicuspid aortic valve is a type of congenital aortic valve defect, meaning it is present at birth. Normally, the aortic valve is made up of three fleshy flaps called leaflets or cusps. In those with bicuspid aortic valve, the aortic valve has either only two leaflets or three leaflets that are fused causing the valve to act like there are only two leaflets instead of the usual three, and they may be thicker and have less flexibility than normal. That can affect how the aortic valve opens and closes, and the ability of the heart to efficiently move blood through the body.

What are the Symptoms of Aortic Valve Disease?

The symptoms of aortic valve disease can often be subtle at first but can become more noticeable as the condition progresses. Some people may not experience any noticeable symptoms at all.

In those cases that do involve symptoms, they’re usually the result of the heart struggling to pump blood effectively due to the compromised or diseased aortic valve.

Common symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath, especially during physical activity
  • Arrhythmia, which means having an erratic or irregular heartbeat
  • Having a heart murmur, is a sign of valve disease and is due to turbulent blood flow caused by stenosis or valve regurgitation
  • Chest pain, chest discomfort or a feeling of tightness in the chest, which can range from mild to severe
  • Severe fatigue, which can make it difficult to perform basic activities
  • Dizziness or fainting spells

What Causes Aortic Valve Disease?

Congenital Aortic Valve Defects

In some cases, aortic valve disease is present at birth, with the condition being one of several types of congenital heart defects. One example of congenital valve disease is bicuspid aortic valve (BAV), which involves a person being born with an aortic valve that has only two “leaflets” instead of the usual three. A bicuspid valve is the most common genetic aortic valve defect effecting 1-2% of the population.

Acquired Aortic Valve Disease

In most cases, aortic valve disease is due to an illness or condition experienced later in life. These cases are what’s called acquired aortic valve disease. This type of valve disease can be due to a variety of factors, including:

  • Getting Older: Over the years, a person’s aortic valve can open and close millions and millions of times, causing the valve to become damaged or deteriorate due to normal wear and tear. This can lead to aortic valve disease.
  • Rheumatic Heart Disease: Rheumatic heart disease is a type of heart valve disease caused by damage to the aortic valve due to rheumatic fever. Rheumatic fever, which can develop due to untreated strep throat, is an inflammatory disease that often impacts the connective tissues in the heart and can sometimes lead to scarring of the aortic valve.
  • Aortic valve calcification: Aortic valve calcification is a condition in which a mineral in the blood called calcium builds up on the aortic valve. This calcium buildup can sometimes cause the leaflets of the aortic valve to become less flexible and stiff, which can result in aortic valve stenosis.
  • Infective endocarditis: Infective endocarditis is an infection of the lining of the heart that can sometimes damage the heart valves, leading to aortic valve disease.
  • Certain other diseases: There are several different types of infection and disease that can result in aortic valve disease. These may include:
    • Marfan syndrome and related connective tissue disorders
    • High blood pressure (hypertension)
    • Ankylosing spondylitis
    • Syphilis
    • Rheumatoid arthritis
    • Systemic lupus
  • Chest trauma: In rare cases, trauma to the chest from a hard blow or a violent event like a car accident can damage the aortic valve, causing the valve to not function as it should.

What are the Potential Complications of Aortic Valve Disease?

As with most conditions that affect the function of the cardiovascular system, heart valves and other structures that help keep oxygenated blood flowing to the body, aortic valve disease can lead to several serious medical complications, including some that may be life-threatening.

Potential complications may include:

  • Passing out without warning
  • Stroke
  • Heart failure
  • Heart palpitations and irregular heartbeat (arrhythmias)
  • Sudden cardiac arrest and death

How is Aortic Valve Disease Diagnosed?

At Hoag’s Jeffrey M. Carlton Heart & Vascular Institute, our highly experienced team, including cardiologists and cardiothoracic surgeons, is dedicated to providing Orange County’s most advanced range of minimally invasive procedures, diagnostics and tests for heart valve disease. Because an accurate diagnosis and treatment options lead to a better quality of life for patients who need heart valve care in Orange County, and that’s what our community deserves.

Visit this link to learn more about how aortic valve disease is diagnosed at Hoag.

Who is Most at Risk to Develop Aortic Valve Disease?

There are several factors that can increase a person’s risk of developing disease or damage to the aortic valve. Risk factors for aortic valve disease include:

  • Being older
  • Bicuspid aortic valve syndrome
  • Having rheumatic fever, which can be a complication of strep throat
  • Having endocarditis, which is an inflammation of the lining of the heart and heart valves.
  • Having a history of radiation exposure to the chest, usually due to cancer treatment
  • Having certain health conditions, including Marfan syndrome and related connective tissue disorders, chronic kidney disease and lupus.

Are There Any Ways to Reduce My Risk of Developing Aortic Valve Disease?

Because factors like aging and certain health conditions are out of your control, there is no definitive way to prevent yourself from developing problems with your aortic valve. However, there are certain steps you can take that may reduce your risk. These may include:

  • Eating a heart-healthy diet that’s low in salt, fat and cholesterol
  • Getting plenty of exercise, and taking steps to maintain a healthy weight
  • Quitting smoking
  • Managing stress
  • Practicing good dental hygiene and taking care of your skin, which can help you avoid endocarditis, a type of inflammation of the heart.
  • Taking prescribed medications exactly as directed by a physician, particularly in cases involving strep throat, which can lead to rheumatic fever.

Need Aortic Valve Disease Treatment? Orange County Trusts Hoag for Advanced Surgical Care

At the Nancy & Bill Thompson Heart Valve Center, part of Hoag’s Jeffrey M. Carlton Heart & Vascular Institute, our fully integrated care team of cardiothoracic surgeons and interventional cardiologists provides Orange County with advanced surgical options for heart valve disease, including state-of-the-art aortic valve repair and replacement. For 2023-2024, U.S. News & World Report named Hoag a High Performing Hospital — their highest distinction — for Aortic Valve Surgery and Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR).

At Hoag, surgical procedures used to repair or replace the aortic valve may include:

  • Isolated Aortic Valve Repair
  • Surgical Aortic Valve Replacement
  • David Valve-Sparing Aortic Root Replacement
  • Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR)

For additional treatment options, visit this link to learn about how aortic valve disease is treated at Hoag. For appointments and answers to your questions contact us today through our online form or by calling 949-764-8258.

Concerned? Let Us Help Guide You.

Submit Your Question Online

Fill Out Our Form

Call Us