Evaluation and Management of Aortic Stenosis for the Emergency Clinician: An Evidence-Based Review of the Literature

Michael Gottlieb, Brit Long, Alex Koyfman
Journal of Emergency Medicine 2018, 55 (1): 34-41

INTRODUCTION: Aortic stenosis is a common condition among older adults that can be associated with dangerous outcomes, due to both the disease itself and its influence on other conditions.

OBJECTIVE: This review provides an evidence-based summary of the current emergency department (ED) evaluation and management of aortic stenosis.

DISCUSSION: Aortic stenosis refers to significant narrowing of the aortic valve and can be caused by calcific disease, congenital causes, or rheumatic valvular disease. Symptoms of advanced disease include angina, dyspnea, and syncope. Patients with these symptoms have a much higher mortality rate than asymptomatic patients. Initial evaluation should include an electrocardiogram, complete blood count, basic metabolic profile, coagulation studies, troponin, brain natriuretic peptide, type and screen, and a chest radiograph. Transthoracic echocardiogram is the test of choice, but point-of-care ultrasound has been found to have good accuracy when a formal echocardiogram is not feasible. Initial management should begin with restoring preload and ensuring a normal heart rate, as both bradycardia and tachycardia can lead to clinical decompensation. For patients with high blood pressure and heart failure symptoms, nitrate agents may be reasonable, but hypotension should be avoided. Dobutamine can increase inotropy. For hypotensive patients, vasopressors should be used at the lowest effective dose. The treatment of choice is valve replacement, but extracorporeal membrane oxygenation and percutaneous balloon dilatation of the aortic valve have been described as temporizing measures.

CONCLUSION: Aortic stenosis is an important condition that can lead to dangerous outcomes and requires prompt recognition and disease-specific management in the ED.


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