The aortic valve is an important part of heart health and any malfunctions in the valve may require repair. The aortic valve is located in the heart. It sits between the aorta and left ventricle. Like any valve, its function is to open and close. It opens to allow blood to flow out of the heart into the aorta, and it closes to prevent blood from flowing back into the heart. A malfunction of the aortic valve can be very serious and result in other health concerns. Aortic valve problems may require repair or replacement.
The aortic valve assists in heart health. The heart has four total valves as well as four chambers which all play a role in blood flow to and from the heart. There are two valves on the left side of the heart, and two valves on the right side of the heart. The upper part of the heart receives blood, and the lower chambers pump the blood. The blood entering the heart from the upper right side comes from the body and is in need of oxygen. It is then sent to the lungs to get oxygen and then returns to the left upper chamber of the heart where it is ready to be transported to the rest of the body. Understanding the blood flow through the heart makes you realize the importance of valves. The aortic valve is that valve that opens for the blood to be transported to the rest of the body. It is in between the aorta and the left atrium. The aortic valve contains three flaps which can open and close tightly. The valve in most cases works just fine. There are a few disorders that cause aortic valve malfunction.
Aortic Valve Problems
The two main types of aortic valve issues include aortic valve stenosis and regurgitation. Aortic valve stenosis is a result of the aortic valve being narrow. It may be a genetic defect or something that happens over time. The valve may not start off narrow, but the flaps required for the valve to open properly can weaken. When the valve does not open all the way, there is not enough blood to get to the rest of the body. Calcium build-up may also cause aortic valve stenosis. The calcium deposits can stiffen the flaps of the aortic valve which too can cause narrowing. In extreme cases, rheumatic fever can damage the heart as well as the aortic valve. Since the aortic valve is narrow, the heart must work harder to pump more blood for the body to operate properly.
Regurgitation is the result of blood leaking back into the heart. This is a result of the valves not closing properly. The blood that flows through the heart is like a one-way street. It is not meant to go in two directions. Blood leakage itself is not the major issue. Like aortic stenosis, the blood leakage causes the heart to work even harder. The aorta is receiving blood, but it is not receiving enough because some of it leak back into the heart. Now the heart has to make up for that loss. Over time, the heart becomes overworked as a result of both conditions and leads to heart disease and heart failure.
Symptoms of Aortic Valve Problems
Symptoms of aortic valve issues include shortness of breath, fatigue, and chest pain. Doing normal activities will be difficult because you will tire quicker. You will even find yourself getting burnt out quicker during exercise. Many people ignore these symptoms and attribute them to age, especially since these disorders occur in those around the age of 60. Aortic valve problems are most commonly diagnosed through routine physicals. An irregular heartbeat sometimes means there is a disorder in the aortic valve. An echocardiogram can confirm aortic valve malfunction. During an echocardiogram, a physician can see how the valve is working and can detect regurgitation. They can also analyze the size of the aortic valve.
Aortic Valve Repair Options
In mild cases, the aortic valve does not need repair. In cases where the heart is becoming damaged, aortic valve repair is necessary. More often than not, the aortic valve is replaced. There are several methods for replacing the aortic valve. Mechanic valves and valves made of tissue are most common. They both have their pros and cons. Mechanic valves are durable, but they can cause clotting. Valves made of other tissues are less durable, but clotting risk is low. Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) is used to treat aortic stenosis. It is the least invasive method of replacement. The new valve is placed through the catheter. Not everyone can undergo this type of surgery. It is normally used for those who have other complications. Aortic valve repair may require the reshaping of the flaps or leaflets of the valve. Tears and holes in the valves can be repaired with the tissues from your body.
Aortic valve repair is a must in cases where your body is suffering. The heart is necessary for us to live a long life. It is not good to put unnecessary strain on your heart and make it work harder. The aortic valve is an important part of heart function because it helps the blood being pumped get to the other parts of the body. Aortic valve repair and replacement are possible through surgery. The source of the problem determines which method of surgery is best. Heart surgery may seem daunting but not having the surgery can be bad for your health. Stay consistent with your yearly physicals and do what you can to keep your heart healthy.
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