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Learning About Mild Aortic Valve Stenosis in Newborns

Heart showing narrow aortic valve and change in blood flow

What is aortic valve stenosis?

Aortic valve stenosis is a type of congenital heart disease. Congenital heart disease refers to heart problems a baby is born with. These heart problems are usually diagnosed at or before birth.

"Aortic" refers to the aorta, one of the two main arteries attached to the heart. The aorta sends oxygen-rich blood (red blood) out to the body. The aortic valve is the gate through which the heart pumps blood into the aorta."Stenosis" means "narrowed."

In aortic valve stenosis, that gate is narrower than normal. If the stenosis gets worse, the heart may have to work harder to push blood through it. And over time, this can weaken the heart.

It can be scary to learn that there is something wrong with your baby's heart. The hospital staff understands this. They will explain what happens and will answer your questions.

How is aortic valve stenosis diagnosed?

Your doctor may hear abnormal heart sounds, such as a heart murmur, when examining your newborn.

Your doctor will order tests to find the cause of abnormal sounds or of symptoms. The most common test used to find this problem is called an echocardiogram, or "echo" for short. It uses sound waves to make an image of your baby's heart.

Your baby may have other tests, such as an EKG (electrocardiogram) or a chest X-ray. Another test may look at the amount of oxygen in the blood.

What are the symptoms?

Many cases are mild and cause no symptoms. If the narrowing gets worse, symptoms may include:

  • Fast breathing.
  • Sweating while feeding.
  • Not eating well.
  • Being fussy a lot of the time.

How is it treated?

Babies with mild stenosis may be fine for a long time without treatment. Regular checkups are important to see if the narrowing gets worse as the baby grows up.

In more serious cases, treatment may include a procedure to stretch the valve so that it is more open. Sometimes surgery is done to repair or replace the valve.

What can you expect?

  • It may seem that your baby is getting lots of tests. All of these tests help your doctor keep track of your baby's condition and give the best treatment possible.
  • Your doctor will make sure that you have all the information you need to take care of your baby at home.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

Where can you learn more?

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