Aortic Stenosis

The aortic valve controls the blood flow from the heart. In aortic stenosis, the valve does not open fully, restricting blood flow from the heart.The aortic valve is tremendously important, controlling blood flow from the heart to the rest of the body. In aortic stenosis, the valve does not open fully, restricting blood flow from the heart. In aortic regurgitation, the valve opening does not close completely, causing blood to leak backward into the heart.

Either of these conditions can cause the heart muscle to pump harder and blood flow to the body may decrease, which can ultimately lead to heart failure. Aortic stenosis and regurgitation may occur with age, often in those older than 70. However, in patients with other heart conditions, aortic stenosis or regurgitation can occur much earlier.

Aortic Stenosis Symptoms

Aortic stenosis and regurgitation may be mild and not produce symptoms. However, over time, the aortic valve may become narrower, resulting in a variety of symptoms including:

  • Fainting
  • Weakness or chest pain (often increasing with activity)
  • Palpitations (rapid, noticeable heart beats)
  • Chronic heart failure
  • Blood clots to the brain (stroke), intestines, kidneys, or other areas
  • High blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs (pulmonary hypertension)

Valve Treatment

Physicians at the Emory Heart & Vascular Center offer a variety of treatment options for patients with severe aortic stenosis. Physicians at Emory perform transcatheter aortic valve replacement for inoperable patients, high risk patients, as well as medium risk patients. Minimally invasive surgical aortic valve replacement can be done in those who are low-risk patients.

The results of aortic valve replacement are often excellent. During transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), Emory interventional cardiologists and cardiothoracic surgeons place a new valve inside the heart without stopping the heart or opening the chest. Patients often recover more quickly from this minimally invasive approach.


About Dr. Thourani

Dr. Thourani has been heavily involved in the research for structural heart and with the Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement trials. Other areas of focus are: valve disease, percutaneous and minimally invasive valve applications, biomedical engineering for treatment of new valve prosthesis and techniques, myocardial protection, coronary artery disease.
Dr. Thourani is the Professor of Surgery, Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Department of Surgery, Emory University School of Medicine, Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Emory Hospital Midtown, and the Co-Director of the Emory Structural Heart and Valve Center.

Emory’s Heart & Vascular Team Make Big Strides in Fight Against Heart Valve Stenosis

Transcatheter Aortic Valve ReplacementEmory physicians recently completed their 200th Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement and the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also approved the new transcatheter heart valve, under study at Emory since 2007, to treat severe aortic stenosis.

The device called the SAPIEN valve, developed by Edwards Lifesciences, offers a new non-surgical treatment option for patients with failing aortic valves. Emory University Hospital was one of 23 sites nationwide, and the only one in Georgia, to study transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) with the SAPIEN valve.

Aortic stenosis is a life-threatening heart condition that affects tens of thousands of Americans each year when the aortic valve tightens or narrows, preventing blood from flowing through normally.

During the TAVR procedure, doctors create a small incision in the groin or chest wall and then feed the new valve made of cow heart tissue, mounted on a wire mesh on a catheter, and place it where the new valve is needed. This offers a non-invasive way for doctors to treat patients who are not candidates for traditional surgery.

This is a major milestone in the treatment of heart disease, the development of this procedure and this FDA approval will allow us to help even more patients with valvular heart disease and could mean the difference between life or death for a countless number of patients who are too sick or weak to undergo open-heart surgery to replace their diseased valves.

My colleague, Peter Block, MD, helped lead the Emory clinical trial, along with surgical colleagues, Robert Guyton, MD and Vinod Thourani, MD.

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Dr. Vasilis Babaliaros Emory Heart & VascularAbout Vasilis Babaliaros, MD
Dr. Babaliaros is an Interventional Cardiologist at the Emory Heart & Vascular Center.  He specializes in structural heart diseases. Dr. Babaliaros traveled to France to learn the new lifesaving approach, training for several years alongside cardiologist Alain Cribier, MD, who successfully implanted the world’s first transcatheter heart valve in 2002.  He is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Emory University School of Medicine.