Aortic stenosis is a condition where the aortic valve becomes functionally impaired due to the valve leaflets becoming too stiff or inflexible. The aortic valve alternates between closing when blood pumps from the left atrium to the left ventricle and opening when blood is pumped from the left ventricle into the aorta. The valve leaflets are thin and flexible to allow them to open fully and allow blood to flow from the heart. The valve leaflets become stiff due to an accumulation of scar tissue or calcium on the leaflet tissue in the heart. Rheumatic fever is a type of illness that can cause scarring of the aortic valve flaps. Anyone born with an abnormal number of aortic valve flaps may also develop aortic stenosis. Medical history, physical exam, echocardiogram, stress test, electrocardiogram, and cardiac catheterization are used to diagnose aortic stenosis.
Aortic valve stenosis patients may experience a heart murmur due to their condition. A heart murmur, an abnormal sound that occurs during an individual's heartbeat cycle, is produced by their blood moving in a turbulent motion in or near the heart. Heart murmurs cannot be heard by the bare ear and must be listened to with a stethoscope. The sounds that come from a healthy individual's heart can be described as a 'lubb-dubb' when the valves of the heart close. An individual's aortic valve is located between the left ventricle of their heart and the aorta, the main blood vessel that moves oxygenated blood from the heart out to the tissues around the body. When the valve is not opening completely, it produces a type of heart murmur referred to as a systolic murmur. It is common for the heart murmur caused by aortic stenosis to be most pronounced in the mitral area. The heart murmur is almost always present over the patient's right clavicle, which can help distinguish the aortic valve heart murmur from other types.