Valvular Stenosis


Valvular Stenosis

Basic Principles

Approach to the Evaluation of Valvular Stenosis

Narrowing, or stenosis, of a cardiac valve can be due to a congenitally abnormal valve, a postinflammatory process (e.g., rheumatic), or age-related calcification. As the degree of valve opening decreases, the increasing obstruction to blood flow results in an increased flow velocity and pressure gradient across the valve. In isolated valve stenosis, clinical symptoms typically occur when the valve orifice is reduced to one quarter its normal size. In mixed stenosis and regurgitation, symptoms can occur when each lesion, if isolated, would be considered only moderate in severity.

Secondary changes in patients with valvular stenosis include the response of the specific cardiac chambers affected by pressure overload. The ventricular response to pressure overload is hypertrophy; the atrial response is dilation. Chronic pressure overload also can lead to irreversible changes in other upstream cardiac chambers and in the pulmonary vascular bed (e.g., in mitral stenosis).

Complete echocardiographic evaluation of the patient with valvular stenosis includes:

This echocardiographic evaluation then is integrated with pertinent clinical data for a complete evaluation of the patient.

Fluid Dynamics of Valvular Stenosis

High-Velocity Jet

The fluid dynamics of a stenotic valve are characterized by the formation of a laminar, high-velocity jet in the narrowed orifice. The flow profile in cross section at the origin of the jet is relatively blunt (or flat) and remains blunt as the jet reaches its narrowest cross-sectional area in the vena contracta, slightly downstream from the anatomic orifice (Fig. 11-1). Thus the narrowest cross-sectional area of flow (physiologic orifice area) is smaller than the anatomic orifice area. The magnitude of the difference between physiologic and anatomic area depends on orifice geometry and the Reynolds number (a descriptor of the inertial and shear stress properties of the fluid). The ratio of the physiologic to anatomic orifice area is known as the discharge coefficient.

The length of the high-velocity jet also is dependent on orifice geometry and can be variable in the clinical setting with, for example, a very short jet across a deformed, irregular, calcified aortic valve and a longer jet across a smoothly tapering, symmetric, rheumatic mitral valve or a congenitally stenotic semilunar valve (Fig. 11-2).

Relationship Between Pressure Gradient and Velocity

The pressure gradient across the stenotic valve is related to the velocity in the jet, according to the unsteady Bernoulli equation:

image (11-1)

where ΔP is the pressure gradient across the stenosis (mm Hg), ρ is the mass density of blood (1.06 × 103kg/m3), v2 is velocity in the stenotic jet, v1 is the velocity proximal to the stenosis, (dv/dt)dx is the time-varying velocity at each distance along the flowstream, and R is a constant describing the viscous losses for that fluid and orifice. Historically, Daniel Bernoulli first described this equation in 1738 from studies of steady water flow in rigid tubes. The concepts were later expanded and refined by Euler. Of note, these equations may not be strictly applicable to pulsatile blood flow in compliant chambers and vessels, although clinical studies have shown that remarkably accurate pressure gradient predictions can be made with this approach. This equation was first applied to Doppler data by Holen in 1976 for stenotic mitral valves and by Hatle in 1979 for stenotic aortic valves.

Eliminating the terms for viscous losses and acceleration, substituting known values for the mass density of blood, and adding a conversion factor for measuring velocity in units of meters per second (m/s) and pressure gradient in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), the Bernoulli equation can be reduced to:

image (11-2)

If the proximal velocity is less than 1 m/s, as is commonly the case for stenotic valves, it becomes even smaller when squared (for example, [0.8]2 = 0.64). Thus, the proximal velocity often can be ignored in the clinical setting so that:

image (11-3)

This simplified Bernoulli equation allows highly accurate and reproducible calculation of maximum pressure gradients (from maximum velocity) and mean pressure gradients (by integrating the instantaneous pressure difference over the flow period).

Distal Flow Disturbance

Distal to the stenotic jet, the flowstream becomes disorganized with multiple blood flow velocities and directions, although fully developed turbulence, as strictly defined in fluid dynamic terms, may not occur. The distance that this flow disturbance propagates downstream is related to stenosis severity. In addition, the presence of a downstream flow disturbance can be extremely useful in defining the exact anatomic site of obstruction, for example, allowing differentiation of subvalvular outflow obstruction (flow disturbance on the ventricular side of the valve) from valvular obstruction (flow disturbance only distal to the valve) (Fig. 11-3).

Proximal Flow Patterns

Proximal to a stenotic valve, flow is smooth and organized (laminar) with a normal flow velocity. The spatial flow velocity profile proximal to a stenotic valve depends on valve anatomy, inlet geometry, and the degree of flow acceleration. For example, in calcific aortic stenosis, the acceleration of blood flow by ventricular systole, coupled with a tapering outflow tract geometry, results in a relatively uniform flow velocity (a “flat” flow profile) across the outflow tract just proximal to the stenotic valve. Immediately adjacent to the valve orifice there is acceleration as flow converges to form the high-velocity jet, but this region of proximal acceleration is spatially small. The flow profile differs slightly for congenital aortic stenosis in that the proximal acceleration region under the domed leaflets in systole is larger than that of calcific stenosis. However, proximal flow patterns are similar regardless of disease etiology in that a relatively flat velocity profile is present at the aortic annulus.

In contrast, the flow pattern proximal to the stenotic mitral valve is quite different (Fig. 11-4). Here, the left atrial (LA) to LV pressure gradient drives flow passively from the large inlet chamber (the LA) abruptly across the stenotic orifice. Proximal flow acceleration is prominent over a large region of the LA. The three-dimensional (3D) velocity profile is curved; that is, flow velocities are faster adjacent to and in the center of a line continuous with the jet direction through the narrowed orifice and slower at increasing radial distances from the valve orifice. The proximal velocity profile of an atrioventricular valve thus is hemielliptical, unlike the more flattened velocity profile proximal to a stenotic semilunar valve. Any 3D surface area proximal to a narrowed orifice at which all the blood velocities are equal can be referred to as a proximal isovelocity surface area (PISA).

The clinical importance of these flow patterns is that stroke volume can be calculated proximally to a stenotic valve based on knowledge of the cross-sectional area of flow and the spatial mean flow velocity over the period of flow, as described in Chapter 6. This concept applies to the flat flow profile proximal to a stenotic aortic valve (used in the continuity equation), to the proximal flow patterns seen in mitral stenosis, and to the proximal isovelocity surface areas seen with regurgitant lesions (see Chapter 12).

Aortic Stenosis

Diagnostic Imaging of the Aortic Valve

Aortic valve stenosis (Fig. 11-5) in adults most often is due to:

Calcific Aortic Stenosis

About 25% of all adults over age 65 years have aortic valve “sclerosis”—areas of increased echogenicity, typically at the base of the valve leaflets, without significant obstruction to LV outflow. About 10% to 15% of these patients have progressive leaflet thickening over several years resulting in significant obstruction to LV outflow, typically presenting at 70 to 85 years of age. When obstruction is present, imaging shows a marked increase in echogenicity of the leaflets consistent with calcific disease and reduced systolic opening. Direct measurement of valve area on short-axis two-dimensional (2D) or 3D imaging is possible in some patients either with excellent transthoracic (TTE) images or from a transesophageal echocardiographic (TEE) approach. However, directly planimetered aortic valve areas should be interpreted with caution because of the complex anatomy of the orifice and calcific shadowing and reverberation, even with 3D imaging. It is critical to ensure that the narrowest orifice of the valve is visualized and nonplanar geometry is considered. Even when carefully performed, direct measurement of valve area on imaging reflects anatomic valve area, whereas Doppler data provide functional valve area (Fig. 11-6).

Bicuspid Aortic Valve

A congenital bicuspid valve accounts for two thirds of cases of severe aortic stenosis in adults younger than 70 and one third of cases in those over age 70 years. Secondary calcification of a bicuspid aortic valve can be difficult to distinguish from calcification of a trileaflet valve once stenosis becomes severe; however, earlier in the disease course, a bicuspid valve can be identified on 2D parasternal short-axis views by demonstrating that there are only two open leaflets in systole (Fig. 11-7). Long-axis views show systolic bowing of the leaflets into the aorta, resulting in a “domelike” appearance. M-mode recordings may help in identifying a bicuspid valve if an eccentric closure line is present but can be misleading in terms of the degree of leaflet separation if the M-mode recording is taken through the base, rather than the tips, of the bowed leaflets. Similarly, planimetry of valve area may be erroneous if the image plane is not aligned with the narrowest point at the leaflet tips. Three-dimensional imaging is helpful in the identification of bicuspid valve anatomy when the diagnosis is not clear.

The most common bicuspid valve phenotype (seen in 70% to 80% of patients) is a larger anterior leaflet with the valve opening along an anterolateral-posteromedial closure line due to congenital fusion of the right and left coronary cusps (Fig. 11-8). A larger rightward leaflet with the closure line running anterior-posterior due to congenital fusion of the right and noncoronary cusps accounts for about 20% to 30% of cases. Fusion of the noncoronary and left coronary cusps, with a medial-lateral closure line, is least common. Many bicuspid valves have a raphe in the larger leaflet, so the closed valve in diastole appears trileaflet; accurate identification of the number of aortic valve leaflets can be made only in systole. Doppler interrogation of the aortic valve should be performed whenever a bicuspid valve is suspected to evaluate for stenosis, regurgitation, or both. Bicuspid aortic valve disease often is associated with dilation of the aortic sinuses and ascending aorta, with the pattern and severity of aortic dilation related to valve morphology.

Differential Diagnosis

The differential diagnosis of LV outflow obstruction includes:

In a patient with a clinical diagnosis of valvular aortic stenosis, the echocardiographic study should demonstrate whether the obstruction is, in fact, valvular or if one of these other diagnoses accounts for the clinical presentation (Fig. 11-9).

A subaortic membrane should be suspected in young adults when the valve anatomy is not clearly stenotic, yet Doppler examination reveals a high transaortic pressure gradient. Because the membrane may be poorly depicted on a transthoracic study, TEE imaging should be considered when this diagnosis is suspected (see Fig. 17-1). The spatial orientation of the jet and the shape of the continuous-wave (CW) Doppler velocity curve are similar for fixed obstructions, whether subvalvular, supravalvular, or valvular, but careful pulsed Doppler or color flow imaging allows localization of the level of obstruction by detection of the poststenotic flow disturbance and site of increase in flow velocity.

In dynamic outflow obstruction, the timing and shape of the late-peaking CW Doppler velocity curve are distinctive. In addition, the degree of obstruction changes dramatically with provocative maneuvers, as detailed in Chapter 9. In the occasional patient with both subvalvular and valvular obstruction, high-pulse repetition frequency Doppler ultrasound can be helpful in defining the maximum velocities at each site of obstruction.

Quantitation of Aortic Stenosis Severity

The severity of valvular aortic stenosis can be determined accurately using equations derived from our understanding of the fluid dynamics of a stenotic valve. Standard evaluation of stenosis severity includes:

Maximum Aortic Jet Velocity

Transvalvular velocity is the key measure in the evaluation of a patient with aortic valve stenosis. Aortic jet velocity alone is the strongest predictor of clinical outcome, the most reliable and reproducible measure for serial follow-up studies and a key element in decision making about the timing of valve replacement. Owing to the high velocities seen in aortic stenosis (usually 3 to 6 m/s), CW Doppler ultrasound is needed for optimal recording of the aortic jet signal. Examination should include use of a nonimaging, dedicated CW Doppler transducer because the smaller “footprint” of the dedicated transducer allows optimal positioning and angulation of the ultrasound beam and there is a higher signal-to-noise ratio compared to that of a combined imaging and Doppler transducer.

Accurate measurement of aortic velocity requires a parallel intercept angle between the direction of the jet and the ultrasound beam. With a parallel alignment, cosine θ equals 1 and thus can be ignored in the Doppler equation (see Chapter 1). However, any deviation from a parallel intercept angle results in an underestimation of jet velocity. Although intercept angles within 15° of parallel will result in an error in velocity of 5% or less, an intercept angle of 30° will result in a measured velocity of 4.3 m/s when the actual velocity is 5 m/s. Underestimation of velocity, which is squared in the Bernoulli equation, results in an even larger error in calculated pressure gradient.

The direction of the aortic jet often is eccentric relative to both the plane of the aortic valve and the long axis of the aorta and rarely can be predicted from images of valve anatomy or by color flow Doppler imaging. Pragmatically, the solution to the problem of aligning the ultrasound beam parallel to an aortic jet of unknown direction is to perform a careful search from several acoustic windows with optimal patient positioning and multiple transducer angulations. The highest-velocity signal obtained then is assumed to represent the most parallel intercept angle. At a minimum, the aortic jet should be interrogated from an apical approach with the patient in a steep left lateral decubitus position on an examination bed with an apical cutout, from a high right parasternal position with the patient in a right lateral decubitus position, and from the suprasternal notch with the patient supine and the neck extended. In some cases, the highest-velocity signal may be recorded from a subcostal or left parasternal window. Even with a careful examination, the possibility of underestimation of jet velocity because of a nonparallel intercept angle should always be considered.

When the CW beam is aligned with the aortic jet, a smooth velocity curve is seen with a well-defined peak velocity and spectral darkening along the outer edge of the velocity curve. Audibly, the signal is high frequency and tonal. The spectral recording should be made with an appropriate velocity scale (about 1 m/s higher than the observed maximum jet velocity), wall filters set at a high level, and gain adjustment to provide clear definition of the peak signal. Maximum velocity is measured at the edge of the dark spectral envelope. The velocity-time integral is measured by digitizing the velocity curve over systole.

Care is needed to correctly identify the origin of the high-velocity jet. Other high-velocity systolic jets (Table 11-1 and Fig. 11-10) may be mistaken for aortic stenosis if inadequate attention is paid to timing, shape, and associated diastolic flow curves. In some cases, 2D-“guided” CW Doppler may be helpful in the correct identification of the jet, followed by recording with a nonimaging transducer for optimal signal quality.

Pressure Gradients

Maximum transaortic pressure gradient (ΔPmax) can be calculated from the maximum aortic jet velocity (Vmax) using the simplified Bernoulli equation (Fig. 11-11):

image (11-4)

Mean pressure gradient (ΔPmean) can be calculated by digitizing the aortic jet velocity curve (where v1,…, vn, are instantaneous velocities) and averaging the instantaneous gradients over the systolic ejection period.

image (11-5)

With native aortic valve stenosis, the transaortic pressure gradient correlates closely and linearly with the maximum transaortic gradient, so the mean gradient can be approximated from published regression equations as:

image (11-6)

With careful attention to technical details, Doppler-determined pressure gradients are accurate, as has been demonstrated in numerous in vitro and animal models and in clinical studies (Table 11-2). Although Doppler maximum gradients correspond to maximum instantaneous gradients by catheter measurement, and Doppler mean gradients correspond to catheter-measured mean gradients, neither Doppler gradient correlates with the peak-to-peak gradient reported at catheterization. In fact, peak aortic and peak LV pressures do not occur simultaneously, so none of the instantaneous velocities recorded with Doppler ultrasound are strictly comparable with this invasive measurement. Potential confusion about Doppler pressure gradient data in an individual patient can be avoided by only comparing mean gradients (Fig. 11-12).

Physiologic changes in pressure gradient should be taken into consideration when comparing nonsimultaneous data recordings and inpatient management decisions. Pressure gradients depend on volume flow rate in addition to the degree of valve narrowing, so in an individual patient the pressure gradient will rise when transaortic stroke volume increases (e.g., anxiety, exercise) and will fall when stroke volume decreases (e.g., sedation, hypovolemia).

The dependence of pressure gradients on volume flow rate can lead to erroneous conclusions about stenosis severity in adult patients with either a chronically elevated or depressed transaortic stroke volume. For example, a patient with coexisting aortic regurgitation will have a high transaortic pressure gradient with only a moderate degree of valve narrowing. Conversely, a patient with LV systolic dysfunction or coexisting mitral regurgitation may have a low transaortic pressure gradient despite severe aortic stenosis. These coexisting conditions are common in adults with valvular aortic stenosis, so determination of the stenotic orifice area is essential for complete evaluation of disease severity.

Continuity Equation Valve Area

Aortic valve area can be calculated based on the principle of continuity of flow. Specifically, the stroke volume (SV) just proximal to the aortic valve (SVLVOT) and that in the stenotic valve orifice (SVAo) are equal:

image (11-7)

If flow is laminar with a spatially flat velocity profile,

image (11-8)

where CSA is the cross-sectional area of flow (cm2), SV is stroke volume (cm3), and VTI is the velocity-time integral (cm). Because flow both proximal to and in the aortic jet itself is laminar with a reasonably flat velocity profile,

image (11-9)

All the variables in this equation can be measured with 2D or Doppler echo except CSAAo, which is the stenotic aortic valve area (AVA) itself. Rearranging the equation,

image (11-10)

Thus, the measurements needed to calculate valve area with the continuity equation (Fig. 11-13) are as follows:

LV outflow tract diameter, measured on a 2D parasternal long-axis mid-systolic image, is used to calculate a circular outflow tract cross-sectional area (CSA). The velocity-time integral in the outflow tract is recorded with pulsed Doppler from an apical approach. The velocity-time integral in the aortic stenosis jet is recorded with CW Doppler ultrasound from the window that yields the highest velocity signal.

For clinical use, the continuity equation can be simplified by substituting maximum velocities (V) for velocity-time integrals. Because the shape and timing of outflow tract and aortic jet velocity curves are similar, their ratios are nearly identical:

image (11-11)

The simplified continuity equation, then, is:

image (11-12)

Potential Pitfalls

Continuity equation valve areas have been well validated in comparison with Gorlin formula valve areas calculated from invasive measurements of pressure gradient and cardiac output (Table 11-3). Some of the discrepancies between Doppler echo and invasive measurements of valve area are due to measurement variability for the invasive data and to limitations of the Gorlin formula itself. However, technical considerations in recording the Doppler and 2D echo data and the measurement variability of the noninvasive technique also are important (Table 11-4). Each laboratory should confirm the accuracy of its data by comparison with those of an experienced echocardiography laboratory or with other diagnostic tests.

Jul 10, 2018 | Posted by in CARDIOLOGY | Comments Off on Valvular Stenosis
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