What Is Aortic Calcification?

A heart murmur detected by a stethoscope is the first sign of aortic calcification.
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  • Written By: Sarah Kay Moll
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 17 November 2014
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Aortic calcification, which is also called sclerosis, is a buildup of calcium deposits in the aortic valve in the heart. The aortic valve allows blood to flow through the heart, and the calcium buildup that accumulates there can impede the flow of blood as the heart pumps. This narrowing of the aortic valve is called aortic valve stenosis.

Calcium is a mineral naturally found in the blood, and as blood flows through the heart, it can leave behind tiny amounts of calcium. Typically, calcium that builds up naturally does not cause any problems, but in some people, it can cause stiffening of the aortic valve, resulting in aortic calcification. This stiffening can narrow the heart valve, impeding the flow of blood through the heart. This condition is rare in people who are less than 65 years old, but conditions such as a heart defect that is present from birth or kidney failure can increase a young person's risk.

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When aortic valve stenosis starts to block the aortic valve, the left ventricle of the heart has to work harder to compensate. At first, the left ventricle will pump blood with more force, but over time, it will become weaker because of the extra strain. This can weaken the heart and make heart problems more likely. If untreated, this condition can lead to chest pain, arrhythmia, heart failure or cardiac arrest. It also can increase the risk of an infection in the heart if bacteria enters the bloodstream.

The first sign of aortic calcification is often a heart murmur that a doctor hears through a stethoscope. The doctor will then run tests such as an electrocardiogram, a test that measures the electrical impulses from the heart. An echocardiogram is another common test for aortic valve stenosis. During an echocardiogram, a doctor uses a transducer, a wand-shaped machine that bounces sound waves off the heart.

To clear out aortic calcification, surgery is necessary, but if a person has mild or moderate calcification, a doctor might simply monitor the condition to make sure that it does not worsen. For some people, the aortic valve will not get worse, and they will never need surgery. Lowering cholesterol and blood pressure can help keep this condition under control. Aortic calcification can cause irregular heartbeats, so medications to help prevent arrhythmia are a common treatment. Aortic calcification can be the first sign of heart disease, so it is important for this condition to be monitored regularly.

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anon340348
Post 4

Can anyone help with the ICD-9 code for this? I have been told it is 440.0 but I think it should be 424.1/

anon336044
Post 3

Going to a doctor does not prevent disease. So many get a false sense of security. They don't cure it either (heart). They treat symptoms and patch up diseased areas. Only you can prevent disease and treat it with a healthy lifestyle. For example, if you eat bad food, are overweight, sit on the couch and drink and smoke, going to a doctor is not going to safeguard you against disease. Go, but understand the limitations. Be well.

lluviaporos
Post 2

This kind of condition sometimes leads to the patient having an aortic valve replacement. My grandfather had one done and I found the whole process fascinating, if quite scary, because of course the surgery is dangerous.

I thought they were going to have to replace his valve with a pig valve, but they ended up replacing it with a mechanical one.

It sucks in a way, because he has to stay on blood thinners for the rest of his life, and that means he has to be very careful about certain activities.

But it gave him a new chance at life and for that I'm grateful.

pastanaga
Post 1

I feel like, once you get to the age of 65 or so, you should just be going for regular checkups at the doctor anyway, to make sure that these sorts of things don't develop.

My mother is almost at that age, and I know she's at risk for heart disease because it runs in her family. But it's really difficult to get her to go to the doctor, even when she doesn't feel well.

I think she's worried the doc will hear a heart murmur or something, and she'd just rather not know.

But, as you say, if it is discovered early, they can monitor it and suggest ways of making it less likely to do you harm.

I just hope she doesn't regret not having regular checkups one day.

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