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Ask the doctor: Understanding aortic valve sclerosis

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Regular checkups are important for people with aortic sclerosis.

Q. My family doctor heard a heart murmur and sent me to a cardiologist, who diagnosed aortic valve sclerosis after doing an echocardiogram. Should I worry?

A. Aortic valve sclerosis (not to be confused with aortic stenosis) means the valve is thickened, which creates a murmur that the doctor can hear through the stethoscope. This condition, not unusual in people over age 65, does not require any specific therapy. People with aortic sclerosis are at higher risk of problems like heart attack or stroke than those without it, but this is probably because of their age and the higher prevalence of other cardiovascular risk factors. Your cardiologist should follow up with you periodically to check for the development of cardiovascular symptoms and treat any cardiovascular risk factors you have.

Aortic valve stenosis also produces a murmur that a doctor can hear. This potentially more serious condition occurs when the aortic valve is narrowed and can’t open fully enough to allow sufficient blood to flow from the heart into the aorta. An echocardiogram helps make the diagnosis. Traditionally, doctors used open-heart surgery to repair or replace the valve. But a less invasive procedure called transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) can replace the faulty aortic valve via a catheter threaded up to the heart from an artery in the leg. TAVR can be a good option for people with advanced symptoms when open-heart surgery is too risky. 

— Deepak L. Bhatt, MD, MPH
Editor in Chief, Harvard Heart Letter

Posted by: Dr.Health

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