Signs of Heart Disease

One of the best gifts you can give your kids and grandkids is to make sure you’re here for a long time to come. That means taking care of your heart.

Dr. Gil Schorlemmer from St. Mark’s Hospital Valve Clinic wants us to be aware of a common heart disease called aortic stenosis.

What is aortic stenosis?

Aortic stenosis occurs when the opening to one of the heart’s four valves narrows and restricts blood flow. When this happens, your heart needs to work harder and may not pump enough oxygen-rich blood to your body.

How would someone know if they have aortic stenosis?

For many years, you may not feel any symptoms of aortic valve stenosis. As the valve narrows, you may begin to experience symptoms during exercise or when you exert yourself because the heart has to work harder to supply oxygen to your muscles.

Here are some things that might indicate a problem with the aortic valve:

– History of a heart murmur

– Decreasing exercise tolerance

Breathlessness, particularly while at rest

Chest pain, particularly while exercising

Lightheadedness or vertigo

– Swelling of the lower extremities

– Unexplained loss of consciousness or stroke-like symptoms

How is aortic stenosis treated?

Currently there are three options for treating aortic valve stenosis:

– Medical management

– Open chest surgical aortic valve replacement

– Minimally invasive surgery called a transcatheter aortic valve replacement

The appropriate approach is determined by the stage of the disease and the patient’s condition.

The transcatheter approach is the most recent development in treating aortic valve stenosis. Using a technique similar to the stenting used to stop a heart attack, the surgeon inserts a deflated balloon catheter into an artery in the groin or through a small incision on the left side of the chest. Guided by imaging technology, the surgeon delivers the balloon to the narrowed aortic valve, where it is inflated. Then, a round, artificial valve is put into place. It pushes the old valve out of the way and immediately begins to improve the blood flow through the now normally sized aortic valve.

Is transcatheter aortic valve insertion the best option for all patients who need a heart valve repair or replacement?

Transcatheter aortic valve insertion provides another option for patients who are at high-risk or otherwise not a good candidate for open-heart surgery. More patients survive after having this minimally invasive procedure when compared to others who undergo open-heart valve replacement surgery.

What are the advantages of the transcatheter approach?

There are several advantages that are very beneficial to the patient including:

An option for patients who are inoperable or a high-risk for open chest surgery

Reduces risk for the very ill or elderly

Decreases the risk of complications

Results in a smaller, less visible scar

Reduces pain during recovery

Enables a faster recovery and return to normal activity

How do people typically feel after the surgery? What is the recovery like?

Patients usually feel minimal to no pain, improved breathing, an overall sense of well-being – and are soon able to exercise and resume a healthier lifestyle. Most patients experience a much more rapid recovery than they would from a traditional, open-heart valve replacement.

St. Mark’s is among the Top 50 Cardiovascular Hospitals in the country, and is an accredited Chest Pain Center. For more information about this procedure and treatments for other heart conditions, visit or

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