Calcified Heart Valve Leaflets
As you can read in my story, I had aortic valve replacement surgery because I suffered from severe stenosis and regurgitation. One of the key reasons for my valve disease was the calcification of my heart valve leaflets. Said differently, I had calcified valve leaflets.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, fibro-calcific degeneration most commonly affects the aortic valve. According to reports, calcified heart valves typically occur in adults over the age of 65. When valve leaflets are calcified, the valve leaflets become fibrotic (thickened) and calcified (hardened), producing a narrowed valve opening. Risk factors for this type of valve disease include increased age, low body weight and high blood pressure.
The photograph above shows the aortic valve with a short segment of the aorta around it. The valve clearly has only two cusps (bicuspid aortic valve), and is narrowed and densely calcified.
What Does A Calcified Heart Valve Feel Like?
If you placed your fingertip through the opening, the valve would feel hard and gritty.
A doctor may suspect aortic valve sclerosis on hearing a heart murmur with a stethoscope. However, an ultrasound of the heart (echocardiogram) can distinguish between aortic valve sclerosis and stenosis and check for other possible causes of a heart murmur. Calcified valve leaflets can also impact each of the other valves within the heart - the aortic valve, the mitral valve, the tricuspid valve and the pulmonary valve.
My Story With Calcified Heart Valve Leaflets?
Two weeks after my aortic valve replacment surgery, I met with my surgeon, Dr. Vaughn Starnes at USC Medical Center. Doctor Starnes told me that my aortic valve was in "very, very bad shape" and that "it was very good timing" for the operation." Dr. Starnes also emphasized that my bicuspid aortic valve leaflets were "very calcified, very white" and impacting the flow of blood through my heart and body.
Adam Pick is a patient, author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery and the founder of HeartValveSurgery.com.