What is aortic stenosis?
Aortic stenosis is a heart defect that may be present at birth (congenital) or it may develop later in life (acquired). If the problem is congenital, then the defect developed during the first 8 weeks of pregnancy.
The aortic valve is found between the left ventricle and the aorta. It has 3 leaflets that function like a one-way door, allowing blood to flow forward into the aorta, but not backward into the left ventricle. Aortic stenosis is the inability of the aortic valve to open completely.
With aortic stenosis, problems with the aortic valve make it harder for the leaflets to open and permit blood to flow forward from the left ventricle to the aorta. In children, these problems can include a valve that:
- Only has two leaflets instead of three (bicuspid aortic valve).
- Has leaflets that are partially fused together.
- Has thick leaflets that do not open all the way.
- Becomes damaged by rheumatic fever or bacterial endocarditis.
- In addition, the area above or below the valve can be narrowed (supravalvar or subvalvar aortic stenosis).
Aortic stenosis may be present in varying degrees, classified according to how much obstruction to blood flow is present. A child with severe aortic stenosis will be quite ill, with major symptoms noted early in life. A child with mild aortic stenosis may have few symptoms, or perhaps none at all until later in adulthood. The degree of obstruction can become worse with time.
Congenital aortic stenosis occurs in a small percentage of children with congenital heart disease. Relatively few children have symptoms as an infant, but problems increase sharply in adulthood.
Congenital aortic stenosis occurs three times more often in boys than in girls.
Frequently Asked Questions
What causes aortic stenosis in children?
Why is aortic stenosis a concern for children?
What are the symptoms of aortic stenosis in children?
How is aortic stenosis diagnosed in children?
What is the treatment for aortic stenosis in children?
How can I care for my child after surgery for aortic stenosis?
What is the long-term outlook for my child after aortic stenosis surgical repair?
Cardiac Catheterization at Children's National Hospital
The pediatric heart experts at Children's National Hospital treat children with the most complex heart, blood vessel and valve conditions. Our Cardiac Catheterization program has one of the highest success rates for cardiac catheterization procedures. Learn more about Cardiac Catheterization.
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Departments that Treat Aortic Stenosis
Prenatal Cardiology Program
Children diagnosed with heart conditions before they are born receive comprehensive, expert care from our fetal cardiology specialists. Learn more about our Prenatal Cardiology Program.
Pediatric Cardiac Surgery
Our pediatric heart surgery team performs twice the number of surgeries of any other hospital in the region, with some of the best outcomes in the nation.
The pediatric heart experts at Children's National Hospital in Washington, D.C., provide advanced care for unborn babies, children and young adults with heart conditions.