Aortic stenosis is a disease that affects the aortic valve, which is one of four valves within the heart.

Normally, blood is pumped through the heart with the help of the valves. These valves have tissue leaflets that open and close with each heartbeat. The leaflets make sure blood flows in the right direction through the heart’s four chambers and to the rest of the body.

Aortic stenosis occurs when the leaflets of the aortic valve stiffen and cannot open or close completely. As a result, not enough blood can flow through the valve, or if the valve does not close, blood leaks into the heart causing the heart to enlarge.

The narrowed opening of the valve causes the heart to work harder, and therefore the heart muscle thickens. As stenosis progresses, the heart does not work efficiently resulting in more serious complications such as heart failure, chest pain or shortness of breath.

The three main causes of aortic stenosis are progressive wear and tear of the aorta valve in the elderly, an abnormal valve since birth and scarring of the aortic valve due to rheumatic fever as a child or young adult.

VIDEO PLAYLIST: Dr. Alan Speir discusses Aortic Valve Replacement (video 1) and Stentless Aortic Valve (video 2). In the third video, meet a young patient who benefited from heart care at Inova.