Treatment for aortic valve disease depends on the severity of your condition, whether or not you're experiencing signs and symptoms, and if your condition is getting worse.
If your aortic valve disease is mild or moderate or you aren't experiencing symptoms, your doctor may monitor your condition with regular follow-up appointments. Your doctor may recommend you make healthy lifestyle changes and take medications to treat symptoms or reduce the risk of complications.
You may eventually need surgery or another procedure to repair or replace the diseased aortic valve. In some cases, your doctor may recommend surgery even if you aren't experiencing symptoms. If you're having another heart surgery, doctors may perform aortic valve surgery at the same time.
If you have aortic valve disease, consider being evaluated and treated at a medical center with a multidisciplinary team of cardiologists and other doctors and medical staff trained and experienced in evaluating and treating heart valve disease. This team can work closely with you to determine the most appropriate treatment for your condition.
Surgery to repair or replace an aortic valve is usually performed through a cut (incision) in the chest. In some cases, doctors may perform minimally invasive heart surgery, which involves the use of smaller incisions than those used in open-heart surgery.
Surgery options include:
Aortic valve repair
To repair an aortic valve, surgeons may conduct several different types of repair, including separating valve flaps (cusps) that have fused, removing excess valve tissue so that the cusps can close tightly or patching holes in a valve.
Doctors may conduct a procedure using a long, thin tube (catheter) to open up a valve with a narrowed opening (aortic valve stenosis). In this procedure, called balloon valvuloplasty, a doctor inserts a catheter with a balloon on the tip into an artery in your groin and guides it to the aortic valve. A doctor then inflates the balloon, which expands the opening of the valve. The balloon is then deflated, and the catheter and balloon are removed.
The procedure can treat aortic valve stenosis in infants and children. However, the valve tends to narrow again in adults who've had the procedure, so it's usually only performed in adults who are too ill for surgery or who are waiting for a valve replacement, as they typically need additional procedures to treat the narrowed valve over time.
Doctors may also use a catheter procedure to insert a plug or device to repair a leak around a replaced aortic valve.
Aortic valve replacement
Aortic valve replacement is often needed to treat aortic valve disease. In aortic valve replacement, your surgeon removes the damaged valve and replaces it with a mechanical valve or a valve made from cow, pig or human heart tissue (biological tissue valve). Another type of biological tissue valve replacement that uses your own pulmonary valve is sometimes possible.
Biological tissue valves degenerate over time and may eventually need to be replaced. People with mechanical valves will need to take blood-thinning medications for life to prevent blood clots. Your doctor will discuss with you the benefits and risks of each type of valve and discuss which valve may be appropriate for you.
Doctors may perform a less invasive procedure called transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) to replace a narrowed aortic valve. TAVR may be an option for people who are considered to be at increased risk of complications from surgical aortic valve replacement.
In TAVR, doctors insert a catheter in your leg or chest and guide it to your heart. A replacement valve is then inserted through the catheter and guided to your heart. A balloon may expand the valve, or some valves can self-expand. When the valve is implanted, doctors remove the catheter from your blood vessel.
Doctors may also conduct a catheter procedure to insert a replacement valve into a failing biological tissue valve that is no longer working properly. Other catheter procedures to repair or replace aortic valves continue to be researched.