An important proportion of patients with aortic stenosis (AS) have a 'low-gradient' AS, i.e. a small aortic valve area (AVA <1.0 cm(2)) consistent with severe AS but a low mean transvalvular gradient (<40 mmHg) consistent with non-severe AS. The management of this subset of patients is particularly challenging because the AVA-gradient discrepancy raises uncertainty about the actual stenosis severity and thus about the indication for aortic valve replacement (AVR) if the patient has symptoms and/or left ventricular (LV) systolic dysfunction. The most frequent cause of low-gradient (LG) AS is the presence of a low LV outflow state, which may occur with reduced left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF), i.e. classical low-flow, low-gradient (LF-LG), or preserved LVEF, i.e. paradoxical LF-LG. Furthermore, a substantial proportion of patients with AS may have a normal-flow, low-gradient (NF-LG) AS: i.e. a small AVA-low-gradient combination but with a normal flow. One of the most important clinical challenges in these three categories of patients with LG AS (classical LF-LG, paradoxical LF-LG, and NF-LG) is to differentiate a true-severe AS that generally benefits from AVR vs. a pseudo-severe AS that should be managed conservatively. A low-dose dobutamine stress echocardiography may be used for this purpose in patients with classical LF-LG AS, whereas aortic valve calcium scoring by multi-detector computed tomography is the preferred modality in those with paradoxical LF-LG or NF-LG AS. Although patients with LF-LG severe AS have worse outcomes than those with high-gradient AS following AVR, they nonetheless display an important survival benefit with this intervention. Some studies suggest that transcatheter AVR may be superior to surgical AVR in patients with LF-LG AS.
Keywords: Aortic stenosis; Aortic valve replacement; Computed tomography; Echocardiography; Low flow; Low gradient; Transcatheter aortic valve replacement.
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