Aortic Valve Stenosis | Heart and Vascular

Heart and Vascular Care

Aortic Valve Stenosis

UC Davis Health’s heart disease specialists use advanced techniques to diagnose and treat your aortic stenosis. It is important to detect and treat aortic valve stenosis early to help you prevent heart failure.

Medically reviewed on July 13, 2023.

Female nurse listening to the heart of a male patient

Understanding Aortic Valve Stenosis

With aortic valve stenosis, the valve that allows blood to flow between your heart’s left ventricle and your aorta is narrow. Your aorta delivers blood from your heart to the rest of your body.

A narrow aortic valve may reduce blood flow to the rest of your body or cause blood to back up in another heart chamber.

Our specialists, trained in heart valve repair and replacement, can identify if you have aortic valve disease. Early detection and treatment for aortic valve stenosis can help you prevent heart failure.


Symptoms of Aortic Valve Stenosis

If you have aortic valve stenosis, you may not have symptoms unless your blood flow is significantly reduced.

Common Symptoms in Adults

If you develop aortic valve stenosis as an adult, your symptoms might include:

  • Chest pain
  • A murmur or abnormal heart sound
  • Difficulty breathing or feeling short of breath
  • Feeling light-headed, dizzy or faint
  • Trouble walking, even for short distances
  • Swelling in your feet or ankles
  • Trouble sleeping, especially when lying flat
  • Less than normal energy during your normal activities

Common Symptoms in Children

If your child is born with an abnormal aortic heart valve, they may have symptoms such as:

  • Failure to gain weight
  • Poor eating
  • Pale or blue skin tone, especially around their lips, fingers, or toes
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Weak pulse

Emergency Symptoms

You should call 911 immediately if you experience symptoms like:

  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Signs of shock such as pale skin, rapid pulse or breathing, or cool and clammy hands

Causes of Aortic Stenosis

Your aortic valve may be narrow due to a condition you were born with or acquired with age due to buildup of calcium or plaque. Other causes of aortic valve stenosis include:

Bicuspid Aortic Valve

Your aortic valve typically has three leaflets that open and close to allow your blood to flow normally. If you have a bicuspid aortic valve, you were born with two leaflets instead of three. This can create narrowing and prevent normal blood flow.

Rheumatic Heart Disease 

Rheumatic heart disease can cause your heart valve to scar and narrow.


Endocarditis is caused by a severe blood infection. The infection causes inflammation and can damage your heart valve leaflets.

Other Heart Diseases

Other heart diseases such as high blood pressure or atherosclerosis can contribute to aortic valve stenosis.


Risk Factors for Aortic Valve Stenosis

Risk factors are things that increase your chances of developing aortic valve stenosis. These risk factors include:

Older Age

If you are older than 60, you face a greater risk of aortic valve stenosis.

Family History

If your family has a history of valvular disease or early coronary artery disease, you may have a greater risk of aortic valve stenosis.

Intravenous Drug Use

If you use intravenous drugs, it can lead to endocarditis and a greater risk of heart valve disease.

Implanted Medical Heart Devices

If you have a defibrillator or pacemaker, the device can rub against your heart valve. This friction can create scar tissue, which can lead to aortic stenosis.

Other Medical Conditions

If you have high blood pressure, diabetes or an autoimmune disease, such as lupus, you may be at higher risk of aortic stenosis.

Radiation Treatment

If you’ve had radiation treatment for cancer, the radiation can increase your risk for thickened and narrow heart valves.

Biological Sex

Men are more likely than women to have aortic stenosis.


Diagnosis and Testing for Aortic Stenosis

Your UC Davis physician will do a thorough physical evaluation, including asking you about your medical history and symptoms.

When listening to your heart, your physician may hear a murmur (abnormal heart sound).

Your physician can confirm aortic valve stenosis using an echocardiogram. This test uses high-frequency sound waves known as ultrasound to create an image of your heart.

Treatments for Aortic Valve Stenosis

Your physician will discuss the treatment options available at UC Davis Health.


Your physician may prescribe medication(s) to treat your aortic valve stenosis. These include drugs to:

  • Ease the workload on your heart, such as blood pressure medications
  • Reduce heart inflammation or prevent rheumatic fever with antibiotics
  • Thin your blood to prevent blood clots (anti-coagulants)
Aortic Valve Replacement Surgery

Your physician may recommend surgery to replace your damaged aortic valve using either a mechanical or tissue valve. 

  • Mechanical valve: This is an artificial long-lasting valve made of durable materials like carbon. 
  • Tissue valve: This is a new valve made from human donor tissue or animal tissue.
Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR)

TAVR uses a catheter to insert a new aortic valve in your heart. It is an alternative to open heart surgery.

Ross Procedure

The Ross Procedure (a complex surgery) uses one of your heart’s pulmonary valves to replace your aortic valve. A human donor valve then replaces your missing pulmonary valve. Your pulmonary valves are under less pressure than your aortic valves, so the donor tissue is more likely to survive when used as a pulmonary valve.

How many people have aortic stenosis?

1 in 5Adults over age 65

Source: American Heart Association: Aortic Stenosis (PDF)

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