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Treatment for Your Child’s Aortic Stenosis (AS)

Your child has aortic stenosis (AS). This condition occurs when the aortic valve doesn’t open all the way. It can also occur when the area above or below the valve is too narrow. As a result, blood flow from the heart to the rest of the body (except the lungs) is obstructed (blocked). Children with severe or critical AS require treatment. Treatment options include balloon valvuloplasty, valve repair, or valve replacement.

Your Child’s Experience: Balloon Valvuloplasty

Balloon valvuloplasty is a procedure done on the heart using a thin, flexible tube called a catheter. It’s performed by a cardiologist who has special training to use catheters to treat heart problems (cardiac catheterization). The procedure lasts about 2 to 4 hours. It takes place in a catheterization laboratory. You’ll stay in the waiting room during the procedure.

Front view cross section of heart showing atria on top and ventricles on bottom. Catheter is inserted through aorta into left ventricle. Balloon on catheter is inflated and widening aortic valve.
A balloon on a catheter is inflated to open the stenotic (narrowed) aortic valve.

  • Before the procedure. You’ll be told to keep your child from eating or drinking anything for a certain amount of time before the procedure. Follow these instructions carefully.

  • During the procedure. A balloon on a catheter is inflated to open the stenotic (narrowed) aortic valve. Your child is given medication (sedative or anesthesia). This is to help him or her relax and not feel discomfort or pain during the procedure. A breathing tube may be placed in your child’s trachea (windpipe). Special equipment monitors your child’s heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen levels. The catheter insertion site (the groin) is cleaned and numbed. Then the catheter is inserted into a blood vessel in the groin. With the help of live X-rays, the catheter is advanced up through this blood vessel into the heart. Contrast dye may be injected through the catheter. The dye allows the inside of the heart to be seen on X-rays. A small balloon at the end of the catheter is inflated one or more times within the aortic valve. This forces the obstructed valve leaflets to open. Then the catheter and balloon are removed.

  • After the procedure. Your child is taken to a recovery room. You can stay with your child during much of this time. It may take several hours for medications to wear off. Pressure is applied to the catheter insertion site to limit bleeding. The doctor or nurse will tell you how long your child needs to lie down and keep the insertion site still. Your child is cared for and monitored until he or she can leave the hospital. An overnight hospital stay is usually required.

Risks and Complications of Balloon Valvuloplasty

The risks and complications include the following: 

  • Reaction to contrast dye

  • Reaction to sedative or anesthesia

  • Pain, swelling, redness, bleeding, or drainage at the catheter insertion site

  • Valve insufficiency (leakage of blood through the aortic valve back into the left ventricle)

  • Arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm)

  • The need for further treatment to repair or replace the valve

  • Injury to the heart or a blood vessel

Your Child’s Experience: Valve Repair or Replacement

Valve repair or replacement is done with heart surgery. Heart surgery is performed by a pediatric heart surgeon. The surgery lasts about 4 to 6 hours. It takes place in an operating room in a hospital. You’ll stay in the waiting room during your child’s surgery.

Front view cross section of heart showing mechanical aortic valve in place.
Your child’s stenotic aortic valve may be replaced with a mechanical or biological aortic valve.

  • Before surgery. You’ll be told to keep your child from eating or drinking anything for a certain amount of time before surgery. Follow these instructions carefully.

  • During surgery. Your child is given medication (sedative and anesthesia) to sleep and not feel pain during surgery. A breathing tube is placed in your child’s trachea (windpipe). Special equipment monitors your child’s heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen levels. Your child is also placed on a heart-lung bypass machine. This allows blood to continue flowing to the body while the heart is stopped so that it can be operated on. An incision is made in the chest through the sternum (breastbone) to access the heart.

    • With valve repair, the surgeon opens the aortic valve by cutting through thickened or fused leaflet tissue. A patch can also be used to make the valve larger, if needed.

    • With valve replacement, the surgeon replaces the aortic valve with an artificial one that is either biological or mechanical. Biological valves are made from human or animal tissue. Mechanical valves are made from material such as ceramic or metal. Or, the patient's own pulmonary valve may be removed and used to replace the aortic valve. This is known as the Ross procedure, which can be especially beneficial as the valve grows with your child. The pulmonary valve is then replaced with a valve from a human donor (homograft). 

  • After surgery. Your child is taken to a critical care unit to be cared for and monitored. You can stay with your child during much of this time. He or she will remain in the hospital for at least 5 to 7 days. When your child is ready to leave the hospital, you’ll be given instructions for home care and follow-up.

Risks and Possible Complications of Heart Surgery

Risks and complications may include the following:

  • Reaction to sedative or anesthesia

  • Valve insufficiency (leakage of blood through the aortic valve back into the left ventricle)

  • Arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm)

  • Infection

  • Bleeding

  • Nervous system problems, such as seizure or stroke 

  • Abnormal buildup of fluid around the heart and lungs

When to Call the Doctor

After the balloon valvuloplasty procedure or heart surgery, call the doctor right away if your child has:

  • Increased pain, swelling, redness, bleeding, or drainage of an incision or insertion site

  • A fever. Consult your doctor regarding target temperatures for your child.

  • Chest pain

  • Increased tiredness

  • Trouble breathing

  • Prolonged nausea or vomiting

  • A cough that won’t go away

  • An irregular heartbeat

  • Passing out

Online Medical Reviewer: Bass, Pat F. III, MD, MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 2/23/2014
© 2000-2014 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.