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Aortic stenosis

Aortic stenosis is the obstruction of blood flow across the aortic valve (see the image below). Among
symptomatic patients with medically treated moderate-to-severe aortic stenosis, mortality from the onset of
symptoms is approximately 25% at 1 year and 50% at 2 years. Symptoms of aortic stenosis usually develop
gradually after an asymptomatic latent period of 10-20 years.
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Signs and symptoms The classic triad of symptoms in patients with aortic stenosis is as follows [1] :

Chest pain: Angina pectoris in patients with aortic stenosis is typically precipitated by exertion and
relieved by rest
Heart failure: Symptoms include paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea, orthopnea, dyspnea on exertion, and
shortness of breath
Syncope: Often occurs upon exertion when systemic vasodilatation in the presence of a fixed forward
stroke volume causes the arterial systolic blood pressure to decline

Systolic hypertension can coexist with aortic stenosis. However, a systolic blood pressure higher than 200 mm
Hg is rare in patients with critical aortic stenosis.
In severe aortic stenosis, the carotid arterial pulse typically has a delayed and plateaued peak, decreased
amplitude, and gradual downslope (pulsus parvus et tardus).

Other symptoms of aortic stenosis include the following:

Pulsus alternans: Can occur in the presence of left ventricular systolic dysfunction
Hyperdynamic left ventricle: Unusual; suggests concomitant aortic regurgitation or mitral regurgitation
Soft or normal S1
Diminished or absent A2: The presence of a normal or accentuated A2 speaks against the existence of
severe aortic stenosis
Paradoxical splitting of the S2: Resulting from late closure of the aortic valve with delayed A2
Accentuated P2: In the presence of secondary pulmonary hypertension
Ejection click: Common in children and young adults with congenital aortic stenosis and mobile valve
leaflets
Prominent S4: Resulting from forceful atrial contraction into a hypertrophied left ventricle
Systolic murmur: The classic crescendo-decrescendo systolic murmur of aortic stenosis begins shortly
after the first heart sound; the intensity increases toward midsystole and then decreases, with the murmur
ending just before the second heart sound

Diagnosis The following studies are used in the diagnosis and assessment of aortic stenosis:

Serum electrolyte levels


Cardiac biomarkers
Complete blood count
B-type natriuretic peptide: May provide incremental prognostic information for predicting symptom
onset in asymptomatic patients with severe aortic stenosis [2]
Electrocardiography: Serial ECG can demonstrate the progression of aortic stenosis
Chest radiography
Echocardiography: 2-dimensional and Doppler
Cardiac catheterization: Can be used if clinical findings are inconsistent with echocardiogram results
Coronary angiography
Radionuclide ventriculography: May provide information on LV function
Exercise stress testing: Contraindicated in symptomatic patients with severe aortic stenosis
Management

The only definitive treatment for aortic stenosis in adults is aortic valve replacement (surgical or percutaneous).
The development of symptoms due to this condition provides a clear indication for replacement. [3, 4] Infants,
children, and adolescents with a bicuspid valve may undergo balloon or surgical valvotomy.
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Emergency care
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A patient presenting with uncontrolled heart failure should be treated supportively with oxygen, cardiac and
oximetry monitoring, intravenous access, loop diuretics, nitrates (remembering the potential nitrate sensitivity
of patients with aortic stenosis), morphine (as needed and tolerated), and noninvasive or invasive ventilatory
support (as indicated). Patients with severe heart failure due to aortic stenosis that is resistant to medical
management should be considered for urgent surgery.

Pharmacologic therapy

Agents used in the treatment of patients with aortic stenosis include the following:

Digitalis, diuretics, and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors: Can be cautiously used in
patients with pulmonary congestion
Vasodilators: May be used for heart failure and for hypertension but should also be employed with
extreme caution
Digoxin, diuretics, ACE inhibitors, or angiotensin receptor blockers [4] : Recommended by the European
Society of Cardiology (ESC)/European Association for Cardio-Thoracic Surgery (EACTS) guidelines
for patients with heart failure symptoms who are not suitable candidates for surgery or transcatheter
aortic valve implantation

Aortic valve replacement

According to American College of Cardiology (ACC)/American Heart Association (AHA) guidelines,


candidates for aortic valve replacement include the following patients [5] :

Symptomatic patients with severe aortic stenosis


Patients with asymptomatic, severe aortic stenosis undergoing coronary artery bypass surgery
Patients with asymptomatic, severe aortic stenosis undergoing surgery on the aorta or other heart valves
Patients with asymptomatic, severe aortic stenosis and LV systolic dysfunction (ejection fraction <0.50)

Percutaneous balloon valvuloplasty

Percutaneous balloon valvuloplasty is used as a palliative measure in critically ill adult patients who are not
surgical candidates or as a bridge to aortic valve replacement in critically ill patients.

Background

Aortic stenosis is the obstruction of blood flow across the aortic valve. Aortic stenosis has several etiologies,
including congenital (unicuspid or bicuspid valve), calcific (due to degenerative changes), and rheumatic.
Degenerative calcific aortic stenosis is now the leading indication for aortic valve replacement. The favorable
long-term outcome following aortic valve surgery and the relatively low operative risk emphasize the
importance of an accurate and timely diagnosis (see Prognosis).
A stenotic valve is shown in the image above. Symptoms of aortic stenosis usually develop gradually after an
asymptomatic latent period of 10-20 years. Exertional dyspnea or fatigue is the most common initial complaint.
Ultimately, most patients experience the classic triad of chest pain, heart failure, and syncope (see History).

Two-dimensional (2D) Doppler echocardiography is the imaging modality of choice to diagnose and estimate
the severity of aortic stenosis and localize the level of obstruction (see Workup). The only definitive treatment
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for aortic stenosis is aortic valve replacement, either surgically or percutaneously. (see Treatment).
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Pathophysiology

When the aortic valve becomes stenotic, resistance to systolic ejection occurs and a systolic pressure gradient
develops between the left ventricle and the aorta. This outflow obstruction leads to an increase in left ventricular
(LV) systolic pressure. As a compensatory mechanism to normalize LV wall stress, LV wall thickness increases
by parallel replication of sarcomeres, producing concentric hypertrophy. At this stage, the chamber is not
dilated and ventricular function is preserved, although diastolic compliance is reduced.

Eventually, however, LV end-diastolic pressure (LVEDP) rises, which causes a corresponding increase in
pulmonary capillary arterial pressures and a decrease in cardiac output due to diastolic dysfunction. The
contractility of the myocardium may also diminish, which leads to a decrease in cardiac output due to systolic
dysfunction. Ultimately, heart failure develops.

In most patients with aortic stenosis, LV systolic function is preserved and cardiac output is maintained for
many years despite an elevated LV systolic pressure. Although cardiac output is normal at rest, it often fails to
increase appropriately during exercise, which may result in exercise-induced symptoms.

Diastolic dysfunction may occur as a consequence of impaired LV relaxation and/or decreased LV compliance,
as a result of increased afterload, LV hypertrophy, or myocardial ischemia. LV hypertrophy often regresses
following relief of valvular obstruction. However, some individuals develop extensive myocardial fibrosis,
which may not resolve despite regression of hypertrophy.

In patients with severe aortic stenosis, atrial contraction plays a particularly important role in diastolic filling of
the LV. Thus, development of atrial fibrillation in aortic stenosis often leads to heart failure due to an inability
to maintain cardiac output.

Increased LV mass, increased LV systolic pressure, and prolongation of the systolic ejection phase all elevate
the myocardial oxygen requirement, especially in the subendocardial region. Although coronary blood flow
may be normal when corrected for LV mass, coronary flow reserve is often reduced.

Myocardial perfusion is thus compromised by the relative decline in myocardial capillary density and by a
reduced diastolic transmyocardial (coronary) perfusion gradient due to elevated LV diastolic pressure.
Therefore, the subendocardium is susceptible to underperfusion, which results in myocardial ischemia.

Angina results from a concomitant increased oxygen requirement by the hypertrophic myocardium and
diminished oxygen delivery secondary to diminished coronary flow reserve, decreased diastolic perfusion
pressure, and relative subendocardial myocardial ischemia.

There may exist a causal association between LDL-C-related genetic variants and aortic valve disease. In a
community-based study consisting of 6942 subjects with data on aortic valve calcium and more than 28,000
subjects with aortic stenosis (follow-up, >16 y), Smith et al found that genetic predisposition toward elevations
in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) (as indicated by genetic risk scores [GRSs])but not elevated
high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) or triglycerides GRSswere associated with the presence of
aortic valve calcium and the incidence of aortic stenosis. [6] Whether early intervention aimed at reducing LDL-
C levels may help to prevent aortic valve disease is unknown.

Etiology

Most cases of aortic stenosis are due to the obstruction at the valvular level. Common causes are summarized in
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Table 1.
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Table 1. Common Causes of Aortic Stenosis Among Patients Requiring Surgery (Open Table in a new window)

Age <70 years (n=324) Age >70 years (n=322)


Bicuspid AV (50%) Degenerative (48%)
Postinflammatory (25%) Bicuspid (27%)
Degenerative (18%) Postinflammatory (23%)
Unicommissural (3%) Hypoplastic (2%)
Hypoplastic (2%)
Indeterminate (2%)

Valvular aortic stenosis can be either congenital or acquired.

Congenital valvular aortic stenosis

Congenitally unicuspid, bicuspid, tricuspid, or even quadricuspid valves may cause aortic stenosis. In neonates
and infants younger than 1 year, a unicuspid valve can produce severe obstruction and is the most common
anomaly in infants with fatal valvular aortic stenosis. In patients younger than 15 years, unicuspid valves are
most frequent in cases of symptomatic aortic stenosis.

In adults who develop symptoms from congenital aortic stenosis, the problem is usually a bicuspid valve.
Bicuspid valves do not cause significant narrowing of the aortic orifice during childhood. The altered
architecture of the bicuspid aortic valve induces turbulent flow with continuous trauma to the leaflets, ultimately
resulting in fibrosis, increased rigidity and calcification of the leaflets, and narrowing of the aortic orifice in
adulthood.

A cohort study by Tzemos et al of 642 ambulatory adults with bicuspid aortic valves found that during the mean
follow-up duration of 9 years, survival rates were not lower than for the general population. However, young
adults with bicuspid aortic valve had a high likelihood of eventually requiring aortic valve intervention. [7]

Congenitally malformed tricuspid aortic valves with unequally sized cusps and commissural fusion
(functionally bicuspid valves) can also cause turbulent flow leading to fibrosis and, ultimately, to calcification
and stenosis. Clinical manifestations of congenital aortic stenosis in adults usually appear after the fourth
decade of life.

Acquired valvular aortic stenosis

The main causes of acquired aortic stenosis include degenerative calcification and, less commonly, rheumatic
heart disease.

Degenerative calcific aortic stenosis (also called senile calcific aortic stenosis) involves progressive
calcification of the leaflet bodies, resulting in limitation of the normal cusp opening during systole. This
represents a consequence of long-standing hemodynamic stress on the valve and is currently the most frequent
cause of aortic stenosis requiring aortic valve replacement. The calcification may also involve the mitral
annulus or extend into the conduction system, resulting in atrioventricular or intraventricular conduction
defects.

Risk factors for degenerative calcific aortic stenosis include advanced age, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia,
diabetes mellitus, and smoking. The available data suggest that the development and progression of the disease
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are due to an active disease process at the cellular and molecular level that shows many similarities with
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atherosclerosis, ranging from endothelial dysfunction to, ultimately, calcification. [8]

In rheumatic aortic stenosis, the underlying process includes progressive fibrosis of the valve leaflets with
varying degrees of commissural fusion, often with retraction of the leaflet edges and, in certain cases,
calcification. As a consequence, the rheumatic valve often is regurgitant and stenotic. Coexistent mitral valve
disease is common.

Other, infrequent causes of aortic stenosis include obstructive vegetations, homozygous type II
hypercholesterolemia, Paget disease, Fabry disease, ochronosis, and irradiation.

It is worthwhile to note that although differentiation between tricuspid and bicuspid aortic stenosis is frequently
made, it is often difficult to determine the number of aortic valve leaflets. A study comparing operatively
excised aortic valve structure evaluation by cardiac surgeons versus pathologists found that valve structure
determination was frequently incongruous. [9]

Epidemiology

Severe aortic stenosis is rare in infancy, occurring in 0.33% of live births, and is due to a unicuspid or bicuspid
valve. Most patients with a congenitally bicuspid aortic valve who develop symptoms do not do so until middle
age or later. Patients with rheumatic aortic stenosis typically present with symptoms after the sixth decade of
life.

Aortic sclerosis (aortic valve calcification without obstruction to blood flow, considered a precursor of calcific
degenerative calcific aortic stenosis) increases in incidence with age and is present in 29% of individuals older
than 65 years and in 37% of individuals older than 75 years. In elderly persons, the prevalence of aortic stenosis
is between 2% and 9%.

Degenerative calcific aortic stenosis usually manifests in individuals older than 75 years and occurs most
frequently in males. [3]

Prognosis

Patients with severe aortic stenosis may be asymptomatic for many years despite the presence of severe LV
outflow tract obstruction (LVOTO). LVOTOs have been associated with high heritability. One study suggests
that 20% of patients with isolated LVOTO had an affected first-degree relative with undetected bicuspid aortic
valves. [10]

Asymptomatic patients, even with critical aortic stenosis, have an excellent prognosis for survival, with an
expected death rate of less than 1% per year; only 4% of sudden cardiac deaths in severe aortic stenosis occur in
asymptomatic patients. A new proposed aortic stenosis grading classification that integrates valve area and
flow-gradient patterns has been found to allow for better characterization of the clinical outcome among
patients with asymptomatic severe aortic stenosis. [11]
Although the presence of low-gradient "severe stenosis" (defined as aortic valve area < 1.0 cm2 and mean
gradient 40 mm Hg) is considered by some to be associated with a poor prognosis, the prospective Simvastatin
and Ezetimibe in Aortic Stenosis (SEAS) study found that such patients have an outcome similar to that of
patients with moderate stenosis. [12]

Among symptomatic patients with medically treated, moderate-to-severe aortic stenosis, mortality rates from
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the onset of symptoms are approximately 25% at 1 year and 50% at 2 years. More than 50% of deaths are
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sudden. In patients in whom the aortic valve obstruction remains unrelieved, the onset of symptoms predicts a
poor outcome with medical therapy; the approximate time interval from the onset of symptoms to death is 1.5-2
years for heart failure, 3 years for syncope, and 5 years for angina.

Although the obstruction tends to progress more rapidly in degenerative calcific aortic valve disease than in
congenital or rheumatic disease, predicting the rate of progression in individual patients is not possible.
Catheterization and echocardiographic studies suggest that, on average, the valve area declines 0.1 to 0.3 cm2
per year; the systolic pressure gradient across the valve can increase by as much as 10-15 mm Hg per year.
Obstruction progresses more rapidly in elderly patients with coronary artery disease and chronic renal
insufficiency.

History

Aortic stenosis usually has an asymptomatic latent period of 10-20 years. During this time, the LV outflow
obstruction and the pressure load on the myocardium gradually increase. Symptoms develop gradually.
Exertional dyspnea is the most common initial complaint, even in patients with normal LV systolic function,
and it often relates to abnormal LV diastolic function. In addition, patients may develop exertional chest pain,
effort dizziness or lightheadedness, easy fatigability, and progressive inability to exercise. Ultimately, patients
experience one of the classic triad of chest pain, heart failure, and syncope. [1]

Chest pain

Angina pectoris in patients with aortic stenosis is typically precipitated by exertion and relieved by rest. Thus, it
may resemble angina from coronary artery disease.

Heart failure

Heart failure symptoms (ie, paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea, orthopnea, dyspnea on exertion, and shortness of
breath) may be due to systolic dysfunction from afterload mismatch, ischemia, or a separate cardiomyopathic
process. Alternatively, diastolic dysfunction from LV hypertrophy or ischemia may also result in heart failure
symptoms.

Syncope

Syncope from aortic stenosis often occurs upon exertion when systemic vasodilatation in the presence of a fixed
forward stroke volume causes the arterial systolic blood pressure to decline. It also may be caused by atrial or
ventricular tachyarrhythmias.

Syncope at rest may be due to transient ventricular tachycardia, atrial fibrillation, or (if calcification of the valve
extends into the conduction system) atrioventricular block. Another cause of syncope is abnormal vasodepressor
reflexes due to increased LV intracavitary pressure (vasodepressor syncope).

Syncope may be accompanied by convulsions. [13]


Patients with aortic stenosis may have a higher incidence of nitroglycerin-induced syncope than does the
general population. Always consider aortic stenosis as a possible etiology for a patient who demonstrates
particular hemodynamic sensitivity to nitrates.

Other manifestations
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Gastrointestinal bleeding due to angiodysplasia (ie, Heyde syndrome [14] ) or other vascular malformations is
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present at a higher than expected frequency in patients with calcific aortic stenosis. These malformations
usually resolve following aortic valve surgery.

Patients may present with manifestations of infective endocarditis (ie, fever, fatigue, anorexia, back pain, and
weight loss). The risk of infective endocarditis is higher in younger patients with mild valvular deformity than
in older patients with degenerated calcified aortic valves, but it can occur in either population. It can occur in
patients of any age with hospital-acquired Staphylococcus aureus bacteremia.

Patientts with bicuspid valve have an increased incidence of aortic root dilatation (25-40% of patients) and
aortic dissection.

Calcific aortic stenosis rarely may cause emboli of calcium to various organs, including the heart, kidney, and
brain.

Physical Examination

In severe aortic stenosis, the carotid arterial pulse typically has a delayed and plateaued peak, decreased
amplitude, and gradual downslope (pulsus parvus et tardus). However, in elderly individuals with rigid carotid
vessels, this sign may not be present. A lag time may be present between the apical impulse and the carotid
impulse.

Systolic hypertension can coexist with aortic stenosis. However, a systolic blood pressure higher than 200 mm
Hg is rare in patients with critical aortic stenosis.

Pulsus alternans can occur in the presence of LV systolic dysfunction. The jugular venous pulse may show
prominent a waves reflecting reduced right ventricular compliance consequent to hypertrophy of the
interventricular septum.

A hyperdynamic LV is unusual and suggests concomitant aortic regurgitation or mitral regurgitation.

S1 is usually normal or soft. The aortic component of the second heart sound, A2, is usually diminished or
absent, because the aortic valve is calcified and immobile and/or the aortic ejection is prolonged and it is
obscured by the prolonged systolic ejection murmur. The presence of a normal or accentuated A2 speaks
against the presence of severe aortic stenosis.

Paradoxical splitting of the S2 also occurs, resulting from late closure of the aortic valve with delayed A2. P2
may also be accentuated in the presence of secondary pulmonary hypertension.

An ejection click is common in children and young adults with congenital aortic stenosis and mobile valve
leaflets, but it is rare in elderly individuals with acquired calcific aortic stenosis, in whom the cusps become
immobile and severely calcified. This sound occurs approximately 40-60 milliseconds after the onset of S1 and
is frequently heard best along the mid to lower left sternal border; it is often well transmitted to the apex and
may be confused with a split S1.
A prominent S4 can be present and is due to forceful atrial contraction into a hypertrophied left ventricle. The
presence of an S4 in a young patient with aortic stenosis indicates significant aortic stenosis, but with aortic
stenosis in an elderly person, this is not necessarily true.

Systolic murmur
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The classic crescendo-decrescendo systolic murmur of aortic stenosis begins shortly after the first heart sound.
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The intensity increases toward midsystole, then decreases, and the murmur ends just before the second heart
sound. It is generally a rough, low-pitched sound that is best heard at the second intercostal space in the right
upper sternal border. It is harsh at the base and radiates to 1 or both carotid arteries.

In elderly persons with calcific aortic stenosis, however, the murmur may be more prominent at the apex,
because of radiation of its high-frequency components (Gallavardin phenomenon). This may lead to its
misinterpretation as a murmur of mitral regurgitation. Accentuation of the aortic stenosis murmur following a
long R-R interval (as in atrial fibrillation or following a premature beat) distinguishes it from the mitral
regurgitation murmur, which usually does not change.

The intensity of the systolic murmur does not correspond to the severity of aortic stenosis; rather, the timing of
the peak and the duration of the murmur corresponds to the severity of aortic stenosis. The more severe the
stenosis, the longer the duration of the murmur and the more likely it peaks at late systole.

The murmur of valvular aortic stenosis is augmented upon squatting or following a premature beat; the murmur
intensity is reduced during Valsalva strain. This is contrary to what occurs with hypertrophic obstructive
cardiomyopathy, in which a Valsalva maneuver increases the intensity of the murmur.

When the left ventricle fails and cardiac output falls, the aortic stenosis murmur becomes softer and may be
barely audible. Atrial fibrillation with short R-R intervals can also decrease the murmur intensity or make it
inaudible.

Other findings

A high-pitched, diastolic blowing murmur may be present if the patient has associated aortic regurgitation.

Rarely, right ventricular failure with systemic venous congestion, hepatomegaly, and edema precede LV failure.
This is probably due to the bulging of the interventricular septum into the right ventricle, with impedance in
filling, elevated jugular venous pressure, and a prominent venous "a" wave (Bernheim effect).

Diagnostic Considerations

The main issue to recognize with aortic stenosis is that the possible symptoms (eg, chest pain, syncope) may be
attributed to other disease processes. Consequently, aortic stenosis is a diagnosis that can be missed in the acute
setting and is discovered only after a workup.

Angina pectoris occurs in approximately two thirds of patients with critical aortic stenosis, of whom 50% have
significant coronary artery disease. Because angina from aortic stenosis commonly is precipitated by exertion
and relieved by rest, it simulates angina from coronary artery disease. Of course, angina also can result from
coexistent coronary artery disease.

Other problems to be considered in patients with possible aortic stenosis include supravalvaraortic stenosis,
congenital subvalvar aortic stenosis, and hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy.
Differential Diagnoses

Acute Coronary Syndrome


Hypovolemic Shock
Mitral Regurgitation
Mitral Stenosis
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Mitral Valve Prolapse
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Myocardial Infarction

Approach Considerations

Diagnostic studies in the emergency department should include electrocardiography (ECG), chest radiography,
serum electrolyte levels, cardiac biomarkers, and a complete blood count (CBC). Arterial blood gas
measurements are generally not necessary but may be obtained if hypoxemia or a mixed respiratory disease
state is suspected.

Multimodality imaging is essential for preoperative planning and postoperative detection of potential
complications. [15] Two-dimensional and Doppler echocardiography is the imaging modality of choice to
diagnose and determine the severity of aortic stenosis. [4] In general, cardiac catheterization is not necessary to
determine the severity of aortic stenosis. However, in instances in which clinical findings are not consistent with
echocardiogram results, cardiac catheterization is recommended for further hemodynamic assessment..

Echocardiography

Two-dimensional transthoracic echocardiography can confirm the clinical diagnosis of aortic stenosis and
provide specific data on LV function. The etiology of aortic stenosis (bicuspid, rheumatic, or degenerative
calcific) may be assessed from the 2D echocardiographic, parasternal, short-axis view. The structure and
function of the other heart valves can also be assessed.

The following 3 echocardiographic findings are indicative of severe aortic stenosis:

An echo-dense aortic valve with no cusp motion (may be unreliable in congenital or rheumatic valvular
stenosis)
A decrease in the maximal aortic cusp separation (< 8 mm in the adult)
The presence of otherwise unexplained LV hypertrophy

Although the presence of aortic stenosis is readily diagnosed with 2D echocardiography, the severity of aortic
stenosis cannot be judged based on the 2D echocardiographic images alone. Doppler echocardiography is an
excellent tool for assessing the severity of aortic stenosis.

Using the modified Bernoulli equation, a maximum instantaneous and mean aortic valve gradient can be
derived from the continuous-wave Doppler velocity across the aortic valve. In a laboratory with experienced
personnel, Doppler-derived aortic valve gradients are accurate and reproducible and correlate well with those
obtained during cardiac catheterization.

The transvalvular gradient is dependent on the severity of obstruction and the flow across the valve. In patients
with low cardiac output, the valvular stenosis may be severe even though the transvalvular gradient is low. To
overcome this problem, 2D Doppler echocardiography can also provide a reliable estimation of aortic valve area
(AVA). The echocardiographic criteria for assessment of aortic stenosis severity are outlined below, in Table 2.
Table 2. Criteria for Determining Severity of Aortic Stenosis (Open Table in a new window)

Severity Mean gradient (mm Hg) Aortic valve area (cm2)


Mild <25 >1.5
Moderate 25-40 1-1.5
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Severe >40
(or < 0.5 cm2/m2 body surface area)

Critical >80 <0.5

Color Doppler valve analysis during transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) can be used to accurately
diagnose bicuspid aortic valve in patients with severe symptomatic aortic stenosis, according to a prospective
study of 51 patients. In detecting bicuspid aortic valve, color Doppler TEE had a sensitivity of 95.5%, a
specificity of 96.5%, and a positive predictive value of 95.5%. [16]

The major limitation of Doppler echocardiography in assessing the severity of aortic stenosis is underestimation
of the gradient if the sound beam is not parallel to the aortic stenosis velocity jet. Thus, in a patient with clinical
features of severe aortic stenosis but echo/Doppler findings of mild to moderate aortic stenosis, further
evaluation with repeat Doppler or cardiac catheterization may be required.

Rarely, Doppler may overestimate the severity of aortic stenosis in patients with severe anemia (hemoglobin < 8
g/dL), a small aortic root, or sequential stenoses in parallel (coexistent LV outflow tract [LVOT] and valvular
obstruction).

Furthermore, echocardiographic calculation of AVA is highly dependent on accurate measurement of the


diameter of the LVOT. In patients with poor transthoracic echocardiographic images, TEE may be used to
measure the mean and peak gradient and a planimeter may be used to assess the AVA.

In patients who are potential candidates for transcatheter aortic valve replacement (see below), the role of
echocardiography is critical. For this reason, the European Association of Echocardiography (EAE) and
American Society of Echocardiography (ASE) have published recommendations for the use of
echocardiography in patients undergoing transcatheter aortic valve replacement. [17]

Cardiac Catheterization and Coronary Arteriography

Cardiac catheterization provides an accurate measure of aortic stenosis and is an important tool, particularly in
patients who have discrepant clinical and echocardiographic findings. [3] In general, if clinical findings are not
consistent with Doppler echocardiogram results, cardiac catheterization is recommended for further
hemodynamic assessment.

Measuring the LV end-diastolic and systolic volume and calculating the EF can quantitate the status of LV
systolic pump function. However, EF may underestimate LV performance in the presence of the increased
afterload associated with severe aortic stenosis. Since bolus administration of contrast may provoke
hemodynamic compromise and assessment of LV function can usually be obtained via echocardiography,
contrast ventriculography is rarely indicated.
Exclusion of coronary artery disease by coronary angiography is important in all patients older than 35 years
who are being considered for valve surgery. Coronary angiography should also be performed in patients
younger than 35 years if they have LV systolic dysfunction, symptoms or signs suggestive of coronary artery
disease, or 2 or more risk factors for premature coronary artery disease, excluding gender. Generally, the
incidence of associated coronary artery disease has been reported to be 50% in patients with aortic stenosis who
are older than 50 years. Coronary angiography need not be performed in young patients with no atherosclerotic
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risk factors and in circumstances where the risk involved outweighs the benefits. [4]
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Radionuclide Ventriculography

Radionuclide studies to evaluate myocardial perfusion at rest and during exertion and exercise may be
considered as part of the complete workup of aortic stenosis. Radionuclide ventriculography may provide
information on LV function, including LVEF, ESV, and EDV. Perform these tests cautiously on symptomatic
patients. [18]

Exercise Stress Testing

Exercise stress testing is contraindicated in symptomatic patients with severe aortic stenosis, but it may be
considered in asymptomatic patients with severe aortic stenosis. In asymptomatic patients, stress testing has
been shown to be a low-risk procedure when it is performed under strict surveillance. [18]

Closely monitored exercise stress testing may be of value to assess exercise capacity in asymptomatic patients.
Abnormal results may prove greater disability than the patient would admit. In addition to watching for
symptoms on the treadmill, one should also look for hemodynamic abnormalities, such as blood pressure
decreases or failure to increase blood pressure normally, which can occur in the absence of symptoms. In this
setting, the test is not used to screen for coronary disease.

Provocative stress testing is used in cases when the severity of the aortic stenosis is uncertain because of a small
stroke volume and a small mean aortic valve gradient (low-gradient aortic stenosis). Infusion of an inotropic
agent such as dobutamine, which results in an increase in stroke volume and heart rate, is usually helpful in
establishing the correct diagnosis. Cardiac output and LV and aortic pressures are measured simultaneously and
AVA is calculated before and during dobutamine infusion.

In patients with an initially low-pressure gradient but severe aortic stenosis, the measured AVA does not change
with an intravenous dobutamine infusion, but the mean-pressure gradient increases significantly. In contrast, in
patients who have a low cardiac output due to concomitant myocardial dysfunction rather than due to severe
aortic stenosis alone, a small increase in the measured AVA and the aortic valve gradient usually occurs with
dobutamine infusion.

Investigational Imaging Modalities

Three-dimensional (3D) volume quantification of aortic valve calcification using multislice computed
tomography (CT) scanning demonstrates a close, nonlinear relationship to echocardiographic parameters for the
severity of aortic stenosis. [4, 19] This method is not yet clinically validated.

In a study by Shah et al that compared multidetector CT scanning with TEE, multidetector CT scanning was
found to be an accurate modality for determining aortic valve measurements in patients with aortic stenosis. [20]

Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has also been investigated for assessment of aortic stenosis. AVA
measurements made with cardiac MRI have shown excellent correlation with those made with Doppler
echocardiography. This method is not yet clinically validated.
Chest Radiography

Even in the presence of significant aortic stenosis, the cardiac size often is normal, with rounding of the LV
border and apex. Poststenotic dilatation of the ascending aorta is common.

On lateral views, aortic valve calcification is found in almost all adults with hemodynamically significant aortic
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stenosis. Although its absence on fluoroscopy in individuals older than 35 years rules out severe valvular aortic
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stenosis, its presence does not prove severe obstruction in individuals older than 60 years.

The left atrium may be slightly enhanced, and pulmonary venous hypertension may be seen. In later, more
severe stages of aortic stenosis, radiographic signs of left atrial enlargement, pulmonary artery enlargement,
right-sided enlargement, calcification of the aortic valve, and pulmonary congestion may be evident.

Electrocardiography

Generally, ECG is not a reliable test for aortic stenosis. The results vary widely in patients with this disorder
and overlap with other cardiac conditions.

Although the ECG findings may be entirely normal, the principal finding is left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH),
which is found in 85% of patients with severe aortic stenosis; however, its absence does not preclude critical
aortic stenosis. Patients with significant aortic stenosis who may not show clear ECG evidence of ventricular
hypertrophy include elderly persons with significant myocardial fibrosis and adolescents, who may experience
ST-segment changes before QRS changes.

T-wave inversion and ST-segment depression in leads with predominantly positive QRS complexes are
common. ST depression exceeding 0.3 mV in patients with aortic stenosis indicates LV strain and suggests
severe LVH. Occasionally, a septal pseudoinfarct pattern can be seen. Left atrial enlargement with a preterminal
negative p wave in lead V1 is noted in 80% of cases of severe isolated aortic stenosis. The presence of left atrial
enlargement suggests an associated mitral valve process.

The correlation between absolute voltages in precordial leads and the severity of obstruction, unlike in children
with congenital aortic stenosis, is poor in adults.

The rhythm usually is normal sinus. Atrial fibrillation can be seen at late stages or as a consequence of
coexistent MV disease or hyperthyroidism.

Extension of calcification into the conduction system can cause atrioventricular or intraventricular block in 5%
of cases of aortic stenosis. Approximately 10% of all cases of left anterior fascicular block are secondary to
calcific aortic valve disease. Ambulatory ECG monitoring frequently shows complex ventricular arrhythmias,
particularly in cases with myocardial dysfunction.

While the degree of severity of changes on a single ECG does not correlate well with the degree of
hemodynamic compromise, serial ECGs performed over time (months to years) can be valuable in
demonstrating the progression of the disease.

B-type Natriuretic Peptide B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) may provide incremental prognostic information
in predicting symptom onset in asymptomatic patients with severe aortic stenosis. [2] A high or steadily rising
BNP may predict the short-term need for valve replacement in asymptomatic, severe aortic stenosis.
Preoperative BNP provides prognostic information on postoperative outcome. [21] Go to Natriuretic Peptides in
Congestive Heart Failure for more complete information on this topic.
Approach Considerations

The only definitive treatment for aortic stenosis in adults is aortic valve replacement, performed surgically or
percutaneously. The development of symptoms due to aortic stenosis provides a clear indication for
replacement. For patients who are not candidates for aortic replacement, percutaneous aortic balloon
valvuloplasty may provide some symptom relief. [3, 4] Infants, children and adolescents with a bicuspid valve
Page |
may undergo balloon or surgical valvotomy.
13
The Leadership Council of the American College of Cardiology (ACC) recommends considering percutaneous
coronary intervention (PCI) in all patients with significant proximal coronary stenosis in major coronary arteries
before transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), even though the indication is not covered in current
guidelines. [22]

Medical treatment (such as diuretic therapy) in aortic stenosis may provide temporary symptom relief but is
generally not effective long term.

In truly asymptomatic patients with severe aortic stenosis, the issue of valve replacement is less clear. [4

Emergency Department Care

Prehospital and emergency department management is focused on acute exacerbations of the symptoms of
aortic stenosis. As always, assess and address airway, breathing, and circulation. If the patient is in
cardiopulmonary arrest, perform resuscitation according to the recommendations of the AHA in their Advanced
Cardiac Life Support guidelines. In patients with acute symptoms, hospital admission, telemetry/intensive care
unit admission, and cardiology consultation all should be considered.

A patient presenting with uncontrolled heart failure should be treated supportively with oxygen, cardiac and
oximetry monitoring, intravenous access, loop diuretics, nitrates (remembering the potential nitrate sensitivity
of patients with aortic stenosis), morphine (as needed and tolerated), and noninvasive or invasive ventilatory
support (as indicated). Patients with severe heart failure due to aortic stenosis that is resistant to medical
management should be considered for urgent surgery.

A patient presenting with angina pectoris requires monitoring and studies as listed above. Measures should be
taken to relieve the chest discomfort. This may include the administration of nitrates, oxygen, and morphine.
However, nitroglycerin-induced syncope occurs more often in patients with aortic stenosis than in those without
aortic stenosis. This information should be obtained through the history at presentation.

Syncope in the face of aortic stenosis should be assessed and treated as in any patient presenting with a
syncopal episode.

Atrial fibrillation in the setting of aortic stenosis is considered a medical emergency, and sinus rhythm should
be restored urgently in patients who are hemodynamically unstable. Associated symptoms also should be
treated urgently.

Percutaneous Balloon Valvuloplasty

Percutaneous balloon valvuloplasty is used as a palliative measure in critically ill adult patients who are not
surgical candidates or as a bridge to aortic valve replacement in critically ill patients. The high rate of restenosis
and the absence of a mortality benefit preclude its use as a definitive treatment method in adults with severe
aortic stenosis.
Valvuloplasty can be considered in cases of severe heart failure or cardiogenic shock for the following patients:

Patients with other comorbid conditions with a very short life expectancy
Patients who refuse surgery
Patients with heart failure who need an urgent, major noncardiac surgical procedure
Pregnant patients with critical aortic stenosis
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14
In critically ill patients, the mortality rate associated with the procedure is 3-7%. Another 6% develop serious
complications, including perforation, myocardial infarction, and severe aortic regurgitation.

In children, adolescents, and young adults with congenital aortic stenosis, percutaneous balloon valvuloplasty
carries a mortality risk of 1% and may be an alternative to surgical valvotomy. The risk of causing significant
aortic regurgitation is 10%. Although exercise restriction is sometimes recommended to avoid the risk of
sudden unexpected death for some patients with congenital aortic stenosis, a recent study by Brown et al
suggests that sudden unexpected death is extremely rare following balloon valvuloplasty, and the study found
no beneficial effect for exercise restriction after the procedure is performed. [23]

The best results from valvuloplasty are obtained in the patients with a commissural bicuspid aortic valve, in
whom a 60-70% reduction in gradient and a 60% increase in the AVA can be expected.

Restenosis is common, particularly in patients with unicuspid valves or with valves affected by severe dysplasia
(>60% at 6 mo, virtually 100% at 2 y). However, repeat procedures have been shown to provide a median
survival rate of approximately 3 years and to maintain clinical improvement. [24]

Aortic Valve Replacement

In most adults with symptomatic, severe aortic stenosis, aortic valve replacement is the surgical treatment of
choice. If concomitant coronary disease is present, aortic valve replacement and coronary artery bypass graft
(CABG) should be performed simultaneously. Successful aortic valve replacement produces substantial clinical
and hemodynamic improvement in patients with aortic stenosis, including octogenarians.

Bioprosthetic and mechanical valves

The choice of prosthesis is determined by the anticipated longevity of the patient and his/her ability to tolerate
anticoagulation. [25]

Stassano et al found that bioprosthetic aortic valves were significantly less durable than were mechanical
valves. In a prospective, randomized study of 310 patients aged 55-70 years, followup at 13 years showed that
valve failures and reoperations were more frequent in the bioprosthesis group than in the mechanical prosthesis
group. However, there were no differences between the 2 types of valves regarding the rates of survival,
thromboembolism, bleeding, endocarditis, and major adverse prosthesis-related events. [26]

The surgical mortality risk in patients with normal LV systolic function and no other comorbid conditions is
less than 5%. Risk factors for increased operative mortality include the following:

High New York Heart Association (NYHA) class (25-30% mortality in patients with class IV)
Preoperative LV systolic dysfunction
Older age
Associated aortic regurgitation
Overall, the 5-year survival rate in all adults after aortic valve replacement is 80-94%, and the 10-year survival
rate is 68-89%. Risk factors for late death include the following:

High preoperative NYHA class


LV systolic dysfunction
Preoperative ventricular arrhythmias
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Concomitant aortic regurgitation
15
Atrial fibrillation
Coronary artery disease, particularly a history of myocardial infarction

Ross procedure

The Ross procedure is another option in young patients as an initial procedure or for reoperation after prior
valvotomy. In this procedure, the patient's own pulmonary valve and main pulmonary artery are transplanted to
the aortic position, with reimplantation of coronary arteries. A homograft is placed in the pulmonary position.
Its durability may be better than tissue valves. However, the Ross procedure is technically demanding and
results at different centers have been mixed.

Percutaneous transcatheter valve replacement

Many patients with severe aortic stenosis and coexisting conditions are not candidates for, or are at high risk for
complications with, surgical replacement of the aortic valve. Studies have suggested that percutaneous
transcatheter aortic-valve replacement (TAVR) with a balloon-expandable bovine pericardial valve is a less
invasive option for these high-risk patients. [4, 27, 28] In a study comparing TAVR (via a transfemoral or a
transapical approach) and surgical replacement in patients who were candidates for valve replacement but
considered to be high risk, survival at 1 year was similar for both procedures. [29] However, important
differences in periprocedural risks were observed; major vascular complications and stroke were more frequent
with TAVR, whereas major bleeding and new-onset atrial fibrillation were more frequent with surgical valve
replacement.

A comprehensive literature review by Daneault evaluated the incidence of stroke after surgical and transcatheter
treatment for aortic stenosis. The risk of stroke for the general population after aortic valve replacement was
1.5% (2-4% in higher risk and elderly patients). The rate after transcatheter treatment was 1.5-6%. This review
shows a trend for more strokes in the transcatheter group. [30]

In the Placement of Aortic Transcatheter Valves (PARTNER) trial, inoperable patients with severe aortic
stenosis had improved survival with transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) compared with medical
management. [31] In high-risk patients, survival was similar with TAVR and surgical aortic valve replacement. In
all the patient cohorts, low flow (stroke volume index 35 mL/m2) was an independent predictor of mortality,
whereas low ejection fraction and mean gradient were not. [31]

Also in the PARTNER trial, patients with critical aortic stenosis after either surgical aortic valve replacement
(SAVR) or TAVR showed decreased aortic valve gradients and increased effective orifice area (EOA) on
echocardiography through 2 years of follow-up. [32] Univariate postimplantation echocardiographic predictors of
death in the TAVR group were as follows:

Larger left ventricular systolic and diastolic volumes


Larger EOA
Greater aortic regurgitation
Decreased ejection fraction
In the SAVR group, the predictors of death were as follows:

Smaller left ventricular systolic and diastolic volumes


Smaller EOA
Low stroke volume
Prosthesis-patient mismatch
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16
Five-year outcomes from the PARTNER trial showed similar outcomes between high-risk patients with aortic
stenosis who underwent transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) and those who underwent surgical
aortic valve replacement (SAVR). [33] At 5 years, risk of death was 67.8% in the TAVR group versus 62.4% in
the SAVR group. Neither group reported structural valve deterioration requiring surgical valve replacement.
However, moderate or severe aortic regurgitation occurred in 40 of 280 (14%) patients in the TAVR group but
in only 2 of 228 (1%) patients in the SAVR group; this was associated with increased 5-year risk of mortality in
the TAVR group. [33]

In another randomized study, TAVR using a self-expanding transcatheter aortic-valve bioprosthesis


(CoreValve) was associated with a significantly higher survival rate at 1 year follow-up than surgical aortic-
valve replacement. [34, 35] The study consisted of 795 patients with severe aortic stenosis who were at increased
surgical risk. The rate of death from any cause at 1 year was 14.2% in the TAVR group and 19.1% in the
surgical group (P = 0.04). The risk of stroke at 30 days was 4.9% with TAVR and 6.2% with surgery. [34, 35]

In June 2014, the FDA widened the indication for the self-expanding transcatheter aortic-valve bioprosthesis
CoreValve to include patients with symptomatic severe aortic stenosis who are at high risk for surgery. [36, 37]
The original indication approved in January 2014 was for patients considered at extreme risk and thus not
surgical candidates. [36]

Approval for the expanded indication was based on data from the head-to-head High-Risk Study of the
CoreValve US Pivotal Trial, in which patients who underwent transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR)
with CoreValve had a significantly higher 1-year survival rate (85.8%) compared with those who underwent
surgical valve replacement (80.9%). [36, 37] The rates of stroke were low and similar between the groups;
however, relative to those who received a surgical valve, rates of major adverse cardiovascular/cerebral events
were significantly better at 1 year and overall hemodynamic performance was better at all time points in those
who underwent TAVR with CoreValve. [37]

In the ADVANCE study (ArmeD SerVices TrAuma RehabilitatioN OutComE), Linke et al found that
implantation of a self-expanding transcatheter aortic valve system (CoreValve System) resulted in a significant
improvement in hemodynamics and an increase in the effective aortic valve orifice area in high-risk patients
with severe aortic stenosis. [38] Major adverse cardiovascular and cerebrovascular events were 8.0% at 30 days
and 21.2% at 12 months; all-cause mortality was 4.5% and 17.9%, respectively; cadiovascular mortality was
3.4% and 11.7%, respectively; and rate of stroke was 3.0% and 4.5%, respectively. [38]

Medical Treatment

The medical treatment options are limited in symptomatic patients with aortic stenosis who are not candidates
for surgery. In patients with pulmonary congestion, cautious use of digitalis, diuretics, and angiotensin-
converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors might attempted, whereas beta-blockers might be used if the predominant
symptom is angina. In any case, excessive decrease in preload or systemic arterial blood pressure should be
avoided.
Vasodilators may be used for heart failure and for hypertension but should also be employed with extreme
caution to avoid critically reducing preload or systemic arterial blood pressure in a patient with significant aortic
stenosis.

Severe hypertension is frequently seen in the elderly patient with aortic stenosis and should be treated, because
it causes an additional increase in vascular afterload. Treatment should follow the guidelines set out in the
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Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High
17
Blood Pressure. [39] Reducing the blood pressure to normal levels is advisable, but hypotension must be avoided.
[4]

The ESC/EACTS guidelines recommend that patients with heart failure symptoms who are not suitable
candidates for surgery or transcatheter aortic valve implantation may be treated with digoxin, diuretics, ACE
inhibitors, or angiotensin receptor blockers. [4]

Endocarditis prophylaxis

Antibiotic prophylaxis for the prevention of bacterial endocarditis is no longer recommended in patients with
valvular aortic stenosis.

Activity Patients with mild aortic stenosis can lead a normal life. In cases of moderate aortic stenosis,
moderate to severe physical exertion and competitive sports should be avoided.

Prevention/Deterrence Although small, observational studies have suggested that statin use can reduce aortic
valve leaflet calcification and delay the progression of aortic stenosis severity, [40] 3 randomized, double-blind,
placebo controlled trials of almost 2200 patients showed that intensive lipid-lowering therapy does not halt the
progression of calcific aortic stenosis or induce its regression.

Complications

Possible complications of aortic stenosis include the following:

Sudden cardiac death


Heart failure
Conduction defects
Calcific embolization

Long-Term Monitoring

The frequency of the follow-up visits in asymptomatic patients is determined by the severity of aortic stenosis
and by the presence of comorbid conditions.
In patients with mild aortic stenosis, yearly history and physical examination and an echocardiogram every 3-5
years are appropriate.
Patients with moderate or severe aortic stenosis should be examined twice yearly and whenever they develop
symptoms that are potentially attributable to aortic stenosis.
In patients with moderate aortic stenosis, echocardiograms should be performed every 2 years, whereas in
asymptomatic patients with severe aortic stenosis, yearly echocardiograms are recommended.
Following aortic valve replacement, every patient should undergo echocardiographic examination after
recovery. Thereafter, an examination is recommended whenever new symptoms develop that are attributable to
a potential valvular dysfunction.
Patients with mechanical valves should receive lifelong anticoagulation with warfarin and should undergo
periodic screening of their anticoagulation status.
Guidelines Summary

In 2014, the American College of Cardiology (ACC)/American Heart Association (AHA) released a revision to
its 2008 guidelines for management of patients with valvular heart disease (VHD) [5] ; and the European Society
of Cardiology (ESC) and the European Association for Cardio-Thoracic Surgery (EACTS) issued a revision of
its 2007 guidelines in 2012. [4] The Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS) published guidelines for the
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management of aortic valve disease in 2013. [44]
18
The 2014 AHA/ACC guidelines classify progression of chronic aortic regurgitation (AR) into 4 stages (A to D),
as summarized below. [5] :

Stage A: At risk of aortic stenosis (AS)

Stage B: Progressive AS

Stage C: Asymptomatic severe AS, as follows:

C1: Asymptomatic severe AS


C2: Asymptomatic severe AS with LV dysfuntion

Stage D: Symptomatic severe AS, as follows

D1 Symptomatic severe high-gradient AS


D2 Symptomatic severe low flow/low gradient AS with reduced left ventricular ejection fraction
(LVEF)
D3 Symptomatic severe low gradient AS with normal LVEF or paradoxical low flow severe AS

According to the 2012 ESC/EACTS guidelines, the echocardiographic criteria for defining severe AS also
include valve area less than 1.0 cm2, mean gradient greater than 40 mm Hg, and maximum jet velocity greater
than 4 m per second. [4]

Both the AHA/ACC and ESC/EACTS guidelines require intervention decisions for severe VHD be based on an
individual risk-benefit analysis. Improved prognosis should outweigh the risk of intervention and potential late
consequences, particularly complications related to prosthetic valves. [4, 5]

Recognizing the known limitations of the EuroSCORE (European System for Cardiac Operative Risk
Evaluation) and the STS score, the AHA/ACC guidelines suggest using the STS criteria plus three additional
indicators: frailty (using accepted indices), major organ system compromise not improved postoperatively, and
procedure-specific impediment when assessing risk. [5]

The 2014 AHA/ACC updated guidelines recommendations for AS include the following [5, 45] :
Patients with signs or symptoms of AS or a bicuspid aortic valve should be evaluated with transthoracic
echocardiography (TTE); selected patients with stage D2 AS may be evaluated with low-dose
dobutamine stress testing
Hypertension should be treated in patients at risk for, and with, asymptomatic AS
Surgical aortic valve replacement (AVR) is recommended for patients who meet an indication for
AVR as summarized below, in Table 3.
According to the ESC/EACTS guidelines, aortic valve replacement should be performed in all symptomatic
patients with severe AS, regardless of left ventricular (LV) function, as survival is better with surgical treatment
than with medical treatment. [4]
Table 3. Indications for Aortic Valve Replacement in Aortic Stenosis (Open Table in a new window)

Indication Class
Symptomatic severe high-gradient AS (Stage D1) I
Asymptomatic severe AS (Stage C2) with and LVEF <50% I
Page | Severe AS (Stage C or D) undergoing other cardiac surgery I
19 Asymptomatic, very severe AS (Stage C1, aortic velocity 5.0 m/s) and low surgical risk IIa
Asymptomatic, severe AS (Stage C1) and decreased expercise tolerance or an exercise fall in blood pressure IIa
Symptomatic severe low flow/low gradient AS with reduced LVEF (Stage D2) with a low-dose dobutamine stress
IIa
study with aortic velocity 4.0 m/s with a value are 1.0 cm2 at any dobutamine dose
Symptomatic severe low flow/low gradient AS (Stage D3) who are normotensive and have an LVEF 50% if
IIa
clinical, hemodynamic and anantomic data support valve obstruction as the most likely cause of symptoms
Moderate AS (Stage B) who are undergoing other cardiac surgery IIa
Asymptomatic severe AS (Stage C1) with rapid disease progression and low surgical risk IIb

A comparison of recommendations for surgical and transcatheter intervention for AS is provided in Table 4, below.

Table 4. Guideline Recommendations for Aortic Stenosis Intervention (Open Table in a new window)

AHA/ACC ESC/EACTS
Intervention Selection STS(2013) [44]
(2014) [5] (2012) [4]
Surgical AVR in patients with low or intermediate surgical risk Class I Class I
Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) for patients who have a
Class I Class I Class I
prohibitive surgical risk and a predicted post-TAVR survival >12 mo
Class IIa- Class IIa-
TAVR for patients who have high surgical risk
Reasonable Reasonable
TAVR is not recommended in patients in whom existing comorbidities
Class III Class III
would preclude the expected benefit from correction of AS
Balloon aortic valvuloplasty (BAV) as a bridge to surgical AVR or Class IIb- Class IIb- Class IIa-
TAVR in severely symptomatic patients Consider Consider Reasonable
BAV as bridge to AVR in hemodynamically unstable patients with Class IIb- Class IIa-
severe AS where immediate AVR is not feasible Consider Reasonable
BAV in severely symptomatic patients where AVR is not an option for Class IIb-
symptom relief Consider
BAV as a palliative measure when surgery is contraindicated because of Class IIb- Class IIb-
severe comorbidities Consider Consider

In the 2014 joint guidelines on the management of atrial fibrillation (AF), the American College of Cardiology
Foundation, American Heart Association, and Heart Rhythm Society (ACCF/AHA/HRS) recommended
against the use of dabigatran in patients with AF and a mechanical heart valve. (Class III) [46]

Medication Summary
Treatment of valvular aortic stenosis is interventional. Medical treatment in aortic stenosis essentially is
reserved for patients who have complications of the disorder, such as heart failure, infective endocarditis,
hypertension, or arrhythmias. The medical treatment options are limited in symptomatic patients with aortic
stenosis who are not candidates for surgery. In patients with pulmonary congestion, cautious use of digitalis,
diuretics, and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors might be attempted, whereas beta-blockers
might be used if the predominant symptom is angina.
Antibiotic prophylaxis for the prevention of bacterial endocarditis is no longer recommended in patients with
valvular aortic stenosis.
Beta-Adrenergic Receptor Blockers The medical treatment options are limited in symptomatic patients with
aortic stenosis who are not candidates for surgery. Beta-blockers may be used if the predominant symptom is
angina.
Esmolol (Brevibloc) Esmolol is an ultrashort-acting that selectively blocks beta1-receptors with little or no
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effect on beta2-receptor types. It is particularly useful in patients with elevated arterial pressure, especially if
20
surgery is planned.
Metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol XL) Metoprolol is a selective beta1-adrenergic receptor blocker that decreases
the automaticity of contractions. During intravenous (IV) administration, carefully monitor blood pressure (BP),
heart rate, and electrocardiogram (ECG).
Cardiac Glycoside Cardiac glycosides slow AV nodal conduction primarily by increasing vagal tone. Patients
with aortic stenosis who are not candidates for surgery and present with pulmonary congestion may be treated
with digoxin. Digoxin can also be used as an inotropic agent to control the ventricular rate in patients with atrial
fibrillation.
Digoxin (Lanoxin) Digoxin enhances myocardial contractility by inhibition of Na+/K+ ATPase, a cell
membrane enzyme that extrudes sodium and brings potassium into the myocyte. The resulting increase in
intracellular sodium stimulates the sodium-calcium exchanger in the cell membrane, which extrudes sodium and
brings in calcium, leading to an increase in intracellular calcium in the sarcoplasmic reticulum of cardiac cells,
thereby increasing the contractility of myocytes.
Loop Diuretics Loop diuretics act on the ascending limb of the loop of Henle, inhibiting the reabsorption of
sodium and chloride. Prehospital and emergency department management is focused on acute exacerbations of
the symptoms of aortic stenosis. A patient presenting with uncontrolled heart failure should be treated
supportively with loop diuretics.
Furosemide (Lasix) Furosemide increases the excretion of water by interfering with the chloride-binding co-
transport system, which, in turn, inhibits sodium and chloride reabsorption in the ascending loop of Henle and
the distal renal tubule.
Bumetanide (Bumex) Bumetanide increases the excretion of water by interfering with chloride-binding co-
transport system, which, in turn, inhibits sodium, potassium, and chloride reabsorption in the ascending loop of
Henle. These effects increase urinary excretion of sodium, chloride, and water, resulting in profound diuresis.
Renal vasodilation occurs following administration, renal vascular resistance decreases, and renal blood flow is
enhanced.
Angiotensin-converting Enzyme (ace) Inhibitor
These agents are competitive inhibitors of angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE). They reduce angiotensin II
levels, thus decreasing aldosterone secretion.
Captopril (Capoten) Captopril prevents conversion of angiotensin I to angiotensin II, a potent vasoconstrictor,
resulting in lower aldosterone secretion.
Enalapril (Vasotec) Enalapril prevents the conversion of angiotensin I to angiotensin II, a potent
vasoconstrictor, resulting in increased levels of plasma renin and a reduction in aldosterone secretion. It helps
control blood pressure and proteinuria. Enalapril decreases pulmonary-to-systemic flow ratio in the
catheterization laboratory and increases systemic blood flow in patients with relatively low pulmonary vascular
resistance.
Opioid Analgesics Opioid analgesics such as morphine act by binding to opioid receptors on neurons
distributed throughout the nervous system and immune system. They can also help patient anxiety, distress, and
dyspnea.
Morphine sulfate (MS Contin, Astramorph, Avinza)
Morphine is a drug of choice for analgesia due to reliable and predictable effects and safety profile. A patient
presenting with uncontrolled heart failure due to aortic stenosis should be treated supportively with morphine.