The aortic valve is located between the left ventricle and the large vessel to the body which is called the aorta. Aortic valve stenosis is a condition in which the aortic valve leaflets are thickened and fused, making it harder for blood to flow from the ventricle to the aorta. Pressure rises in the left ventricle in order to pump blood through the narrowed valve. When the pressure build-up is significant, the muscle of the left ventricle becomes thickened, known as hypertrophy, and this can eventually lead to muscle damage.
In infants and children a catheter procedure can be performed to open the valve and improve blood flow. This procedure is called a transcatheter balloon valvuloplasty. A balloon catheter is threaded from the large artery in the groin into the aorta and through the narrowed aortic valve. The balloon on the end of the catheter is then inflated to stretch, or tear, the aortic valve leaflets.
Once the catheter is removed, blood can flow more easily through the valve and the stenosis is relieved. Because the balloon valvuloplasty often tears the aortic valve leaflets they may not close tightly, causing leakage of blood backward into the ventricle, also known as insufficiency or regurgitation.
Over time, the valve can become narrowed again or the regurgitation can progress, thus many patients who have had a transcatheter balloon valvuloplasty require surgery or another catheter intervention later in life.
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