Between October 1, 1985, and April 1, 1988, we performed balloon aortic valvuloplasty in 170 patients (mean age [+/- SD], 77 +/- 5 years) who had symptomatic aortic stenosis. The procedure was completed successfully in 168 patients and resulted in significant increases in the mean (+/- SD) aortic-valve area (from 0.6 +/- 0.2 to 0.9 +/- 0.3 cm2) and cardiac output (from 4.6 +/- 3.4 to 4.8 +/- 1.4 liters per minute) and decreases in the peak aortic-valve pressure gradient (from 71 +/- 20 to 36 +/- 14 mm Hg) (P less than 0.01 for all three comparisons). There were six in-hospital deaths, and five patients required early aortic-valve replacement. Follow-up data were available for all patients, for a period averaging 9.1 months. In addition to the 6 patients who died in the hospital, 25 patients died an average of 6.4 +/- 5.3 months after discharge. Symptoms recurred in 44 patients; they were managed by repeat valvuloplasty in 16 patients, by aortic-valve replacement in 17, and by medical therapy in 11. At the most recent follow-up examination, the symptoms of 103 patients had improved after valvuloplasty; this number includes 15 patients with restenosis who successfully underwent redilation. Life-table analysis indicates that the probability of survival 12 months after the procedure was 74 percent. We conclude that balloon aortic valvuloplasty is an effective palliative therapy for some elderly patients with symptomatic aortic stenosis. Symptoms improve in the majority of patients; although restenosis is common, it can be managed in some patients by repeat balloon dilation.