Aortic stenosis means that your child has a heart valve that is too narrow or is blocked. The aortic valve is 1 of 4 heart valves that keep blood flowing through the heart. The valves make sure blood flows in only one direction. The aortic valve keeps blood flowing from the left ventricle to the aorta. Your child may be born with aortic stenosis (congenital). Or it may develop later (acquired). It occurs more often in boys than in girls.
A normal aortic valve has 3 flaps (leaflets) that act as a one-way door. In aortic stenosis, the valve doesn’t work as it should or has an abnormal number of leaflets that don't work correctly. That makes it harder for the leaflets to open and let blood flow from the left ventricle to the aorta.
Aortic stenosis may be mild, moderate, or severe. It depends on how much of the blood is blocked. The condition may get worse over time. It may also occur with other heart problems or conditions.
Moderate to severe aortic stenosis may affect the heart and blood vessels in these ways:
A child can be born with aortic stenosis. This means the aortic valve didn’t form as it should before birth. Sometimes this problem is caused by a genetic problem. But most of the time, the cause for this isn’t known. In older children, aortic stenosis may occur after an untreated strep infection.
The symptoms of aortic stenosis vary, depending on how old your child is. They also vary by how severe the blockage is. For example, a child with mild aortic stenosis may have few symptoms. Or he or she may not have any symptoms. Symptoms may not show up until adulthood. Or an infant may have trouble feeding and may not gain weight. In severe (critical) aortic stenosis, infants are very ill.
More severe aortic stenosis may cause:
The symptoms of aortic stenosis can be like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Your child's healthcare provider may have heard a heart murmur when listening to your child’s chest with a stethoscope. A heart murmur is an abnormal sound as blood moves through the heart. A heart murmur may mean that your child has a heart defect. Your child’s symptoms are also part of figuring out the diagnosis.
Your child may need to see a pediatric cardiologist to confirm the diagnosis. This is a doctor with special training to treat heart defects and other heart problems in children. Your child may also have tests, such as:
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is. If your child doesn’t have symptoms or if symptoms are mild, his or her healthcare provider may just watch symptoms closely. This means your child may often have office visits and tests.
The pediatric cardiologist and a cardiothoracic surgeon will figure out whether your child needs an aortic valve procedure. The procedures include:
Before the procedures you might expect the following:
Complications of moderate to severe aortic stenosis include:
Talk with your child’s healthcare provider about his or her risk for these problems.
Congenital aortic stenosis can’t be prevented. But all newborns are screened for congenital heart disease with pulse oximetry. This is a simple, painless test to check the amount of oxygen in the blood. It’s done by placing a small probe on the infant’s arm and leg. If the oxygen level is low, it may mean there is a heart defect. More testing and treatment will be done if a problem is found.
Most children who have had an aortic valve repair or replacement live active, healthy lives. Your child’s activity levels, appetite, and growth usually return to normal. Your child should get regular follow-up care with a cardiologist throughout his or her life. Your child may also need:
Contact your child’s healthcare provider if you notice:
If you child has had a procedure, make sure to follow all instructions from the surgeon. And make sure to keep all follow-up appointments with your child’s cardiologist and surgeon.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
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