Heart Health

Aortic valve replacement options

Ask the doctor

By , Editor in Chief, Harvard Heart Letter; Editorial Advisory Board Member, Harvard Health Publishing

cutaway illustration of a heart showing the aorta and a stiff, narrowed aortic valve Q. My 60-year-old sister recently had open heart surgery to replace her aortic valve. It turns out that she had a bicuspid valve that was severely narrowed. But why couldn't she have the other, less invasive procedure, which I heard has a much shorter and easier recovery?

A. Narrowing of the aortic valve develops when calcium deposits build up on the flaps of tissue (called leaflets) that regulate blood flow through the valve (see illustration). Known as aortic stenosis, this can cause shortness of breath, chest pain, and dizziness. Most people who develop severe aortic stenosis are in their 70s and 80s. But the problem can occur much earlier in people with a bicuspid aortic valve, which means the valve has only two leaflets instead of the normal three. Between one and two of every 100 people is born with this defect.

To continue reading this article, you must log in.

Subscribe to Harvard Health Online for immediate access to health news and information from Harvard Medical School.

  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »

I'd like to receive access to Harvard Health Online for only $4.99 a month.

Sign Me Up

Already a member? Login ».

About the Author

photo of Christopher P. Cannon, MD

Christopher P. Cannon, MD, Editor in Chief, Harvard Heart Letter; Editorial Advisory Board Member, Harvard Health Publishing

Dr. Christopher P. Cannon is editor in chief of the Harvard Heart Letter. He is a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, and senior physician in the Preventive Cardiology section of the Cardiovascular Division at … See Full Bio
View all posts by Christopher P. Cannon, MD

Disclaimer:

As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles.

No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

You might also be interested in…

Managing Atrial Fibrillation

Managing Atrial Fibrillation will explain what atrial fibrillation is, how to know if you have it, its causes, and the treatments available. Afib can be a complex health condition, so the more you know about it, the better you will be able to work with your doctor. If afib is monitored and treated correctly, you can minimize its symptoms and help to prevent serious complications like stroke and heart damage.

Read More

Free Healthbeat Signup

Get the latest in health news delivered to your inbox!

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Thanks for visiting. Don't miss your FREE gift.

The Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness, is yours absolutely FREE when you sign up to receive Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Sign up to get tips for living a healthy lifestyle, with ways to fight inflammation and improve cognitive health, plus the latest advances in preventative medicine, diet and exercise, pain relief, blood pressure and cholesterol management, and more.

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Get helpful tips and guidance for everything from fighting inflammation to finding the best diets for weight loss...from exercises to build a stronger core to advice on treating cataracts. PLUS, the latest news on medical advances and breakthroughs from Harvard Medical School experts.

BONUS! Sign up now and
get a FREE copy of the
Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Stay on top of latest health news from Harvard Medical School.

Plus, get a FREE copy of the Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness.