Aortic Stenosis

Symptoms and Diagnosis

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Symptoms of Aortic Stenosis

Aortic stenosis is classified from mild to severe, with symptoms typically most present when the condition has progressed significantly and the narrowing of the aortic valve has become severe. The classic triad of symptoms that patients may notice are breathlessness, fatigue, dizziness and chest pain.

Recognising the symptoms for aortic stenosis is significantly important since many people may not notice any symptoms for years, as the disease progresses unnoticed. Additionally, this disease is often significantly underdiagnosed since the symptoms can often be disregarded as the result of ageing.

The signs and symptoms of aortic stenosis may include:

  • Breathlessness
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Fatigue
  • Light-headedness, dizziness or fainting
  • Difficulty exercising
  • Swollen ankles and feet
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat1

If you have or someone you know has experienced any of these symptoms, we urge you to talk to your General Practitioner.

 

Diagnosis

If a General Practitioner (GP) suspects that a patient might be presenting with heart failure symptoms they will typically ask the patients questions about their symptoms, perform a physical examination, and discuss their medical history2. They may also listen to a heartbeat to assess whether it sounds alarming. Particularly with aortic stenosis, doctors will be listening for a heart murmur to indicate if there may be an aortic valve condition present.

If a GP suspects that a patient may have a heart condition, they will generally provide the patient with a referral to see a Cardiologist who specialises in heart conditions. The patient may also be required to take various tests to assist in determining whether a condition is present and the severity of it. These may include:

  • Echocardiogram
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)
  • Chest X-Ray
  • Exercise or Stress Tests
  • Cardiac Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan
  • Cardiac MRI
  • Cardiac Catheterisation

An echocardiogram, commonly referred to as echo, is a frequent test used to determine the presence and severity of aortic stenosis and is performed by a ‘cardiac sonographer,’ specifically trained in echocardiography3. During this test, the sonographer will spread gel onto a tool (transducer) and use the device to press firmly onto the patients’ chest. The test aims to record the sound wave echoes from the heart to determine if there are abnormalities present. Particularly with aortic stenosis, these tests aim to identify a damaged aortic valve which can indicate if the disease is present.

Please see our Glossary Terms for a detailed description of these tests.