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What is aortic stenosis?

Human heart valves are membranes attached to the heart wall that constantly open and close to regulate blood flow (causing the sound of a heartbeat). When there is a narrowing of your heart's aortic valve opening, this is known as aortic stenosis. This narrowing does not allow normal blood flow. It is most often caused by age-related calcification, but can be caused by a birth defect, rheumatic fever, or radiation therapy.

What causes aortic stenosis?

In elderly patients, aortic stenosis is sometimes caused by the build-up of calcium (mineral deposits) on the aortic valve's leaflets. Over time, the leaflets become stiff, reducing their ability to fully open and close. When the leaflets don't fully open, a person's heart must work harder to push blood through the aortic valve to the rest of the body. Eventually, the heart gets weaker, increasing the risk of heart failure (heart cannot supply enough blood to the body).

What are the treatment options?

Surgical Aortic Valve Replacement (SAVR) through open heart surgery is the most common treatment for aortic stenosis. SAVR has been performed for many years.

Surgical aortic valve replacement is an open-heart procedure. During SAVR, the surgeon removes the diseased aortic valve and replaces it with either a mechanical valve (made from man-made materials) or a biological valve (made from animal or human tissue).

For people who have been diagnosed with severe symptomatic aortic stenosis and who are high-risk or too sick for open-heart surgery, TAVR (sometimes called transcatheter aortic valve implantation, or TAVI), may be an alternative. This less invasive procedure allows a new valve to be inserted within the native, diseased aortic valve. Read more about TAVR »

The TAVR procedure can be performed through multiple approaches; however, the most common approach is the transfemoral approach (through an incision in the leg). Only a Heart Team can decide which approach is best, based on a person's medical condition and other factors. Click here to submit an online inquiry to our clinical team to see if you’re a good TAVR candidate »

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