Heart Condition With Narrowed Heart Valve

At Penn State Health Children’s Hospital, we know that nothing is more important to you than your child’s heart care – and it’s our top priority too. Our nationally recognized heart program offers advanced diagnostic and treatment techniques for aortic stenosis from a comprehensive team of pediatric heart care experts.

Aortic stenosis occurs when the aortic valve – located between the heart’s left ventricle and aorta – is too narrow, causing the left ventricle to work harder to pump blood out through the valve. This extra work makes the muscles in the ventricle walls thicken and the decrease in blood flow can cause chest pain, fainting and eventually heart failure. 

As aortic stenosis progresses, the pressure continues to rise and blood can back up into the lungs. Severe aortic stenosis can limit blood from reaching the brain and the rest of the body.

Pediatric aortic stenosis may be present from birth (congenital) or occur later in childhood.

Symptoms, Diagnosis and Outlook

Pediatric aortic stenosis symptoms vary. Children with mild aortic stenosis may not have significant symptoms; however babies and children with severe aortic stenosis will be very ill. Symptoms include:

  • Chest pain
  • Coughing
  • Dizziness
  • Failure to gain weight
  • Fainting
  • Labored breathing
  • Poor feeding
  • Serious breathing problems that develop days or weeks after birth
  • Tiring easily

Children with mild or moderate aortic stenosis may get worse as they get older and be at risk for a heart infection called bacterial endocarditis.

Aortic stenosis is found in babies during their newborn screening at the hospital. A pulse oximetry is used to screen each baby for congenital heart disease by measuring the amount of oxygen in the blood. A low reading is a flag for our team to assess the baby for a heart issue.

Diagnostic testing for aortic stenosis for older children typically includes an echocardiogram, a doctor-ordered imaging test that uses ultrasound to make detailed pictures of the heart. The test is painless and has no side effects. Additional tests may include an exercise stress test to evaluate your child’s heart while he or she exercises, bloodwork or additional imaging.

The outlook for patients with pediatric aortic stenosis varies. The disorder can be mild in some children and not produce a lot of symptoms, but the aortic valve may become narrower over time. The valve narrowing can cause more severe heart problems, including:

  • Atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter
  • Blood clots to the brain (stroke), intestines, kidneys or other areas
  • Fainting spells (syncope)
  • Heart failure
  • High blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs (pulmonary hypertension)

Pediatric patients who undergo aortic stenosis surgery typically have excellent results. At Penn State Health Children’s Hospital, your child’s heart is in the very best hands.

Why Choose Penn State Health Children’s Hospital for Care

Comprehensive Cardiac Care Team

At Penn State Health Children’s Hospital, our aortic stenosis patients receive comprehensive care from a multidisciplinary team of pediatric specialists, including:

  • Cardiologists
  • Cardiac surgeons
  • Intensivists
  • Anesthesiologists
  • Neonatologists
  • Critical care physicians
  • Specialized nursing staff

Our team will take a medical history and perform a physical exam at your child’s initial evaluation. We’ll also listen for a heart murmur or other abnormal sounds through a stethoscope, and may check for movements or vibrations by placing a hand over the patient’s heart.

Safe and Customized Activities for Your Child

Penn State Health Children’s Hospital has a nationally-recognized laboratory that allows our experts to diagnose problems that might limit your child’s activities. This state-of-the-art lab gives our team the necessary tools to provide patients with a safe exercise routine.

Comprehensive Treatment Options

Treatment for aortic stenosis depends on the severity of your child’s condition. The specialists at Penn State Health Children’s Heart Group will evaluate your child, review their test results and work closely with you to determine the best course of action. Our goal is to keep your child active, productive and safe.

Patients with mild aortic stenosis may just require regular checkups. More in-depth cases may require more active treatment, including:

  • Modifying activities: refraining from competitive sports or strenuous activity
  • Medications: diuretics, nitrates or beta-blockers
  • Surgery: a surgical procedure to repair or replace the valve
  • Balloon valvuloplasty: a procedure that widens the valve

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