Aortic stenosis differential diagnosis

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editors-In-Chief: Mohammed A. Sbeih, M.D. [2]; Usama Talib, BSc, MD [3] Assistant Editor-In-Chief: Kristin Feeney, B.S. [4]


Aortic stenosis must be differentiated from other cardiac or pulmonary causes of dyspnea, weakness, and dizziness. Furthermore, when left ventricular outflow tract obstruction is present, it is critical to identify whether the obstruction is subvalvular, valvular or supravalvular and whether there is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HOCM) or not.[1]

Differentiating Aortic Stenosis from other Diseases

Aortic stenosis must be differentiated from the following:[2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24]

Diseases History Symptoms Physical Examination Murmur Diagnosis Other Findings
ECG CXR Echocardiogram Cardiac Catheterization
Aortic stenosis
  • Age (aortic valve calcification)
  • Syncope
  • Orthopnea
  • Paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea
  • Acute rheumatic fever
  • Chest pain
  • Dyspnea on exertion
  • Palpitations
  • Symptoms of heart failure
  • Pulsus parvus et tardus
  • Pulmonary rales
  • Peripheral edema (In CHF patients)
  • Jugular venous distension
  • Enlarged and laterally displaced point of maximal impulse
  • Crescendo-decrescendo systolic murmur
  • Best heard at the right upper sternal border
  • Radiation to the carotid arteries
  • Increases with squatting
  • Decreases with valsalva maneuver
Left ventricular hypertrophy:
  • Wide QRS complex (especially in leads V1-V6)
  • ST depression in leads V5-V6
  • Left axis deviation
  • Enlarged left ventricle
  • Enlarged left atrium and pulmonary artery in severe cases
  • Calcification of the aortic valve
  • Thickening and calcification of the aortic valve
  • Left ventricular hypertrophy
Left heart catheterization:
  • Left ventricular and aortic pressures
  • The left ventricle generates higher pressures than what is transmitted to the aorta
  • Associated with von Willibrand disease
Mitral Stenosis
  • Age ( Mitral annular calcification in older patients)
  • Mitral facies
  • Heart murmur
  • Apical impulse displaced laterally or not palpable
  • Diastolic thrill at the apex
  • Signs of heart failure in severe cases
  • Diastolic murmur
  • Low pitched
  • Opening snap followed by decrescendo-crescendo rumbling murmur
  • Best heard with the bell of the stethoscope at apex at end-expiration in left lateral decubitus position
  • Intensity increases after a valsalva maneuver, after exercise and after increased after load (eg., squatting, isometric hand grip)
  • Right ventricular hypertropy: Dominant R wave in V1 and V2
  • Straightening of the left border of the heart suggestive of enlargement of the left atrium
  • Double right heart border (Enlarged left atrium and normal right atrium)
  • Prominent left atrial appendage
  • Reduced valve leaflet mobility
  • Valve calcification
  • Doming of mitral valve
  • Valve thickening
  • Enlargement of left atrium
Right heart catheterization:

Left heart catheterization:

  • Pressures in left ventricle
  • Determines the gradient between the left and right atrium during ventricular diastole (marker of the severity of mitral stenosis)
Mitral Regurgitation
  • Trauma
  • Symptoms of heart failure in severe cases
  • Brisk carotid upstroke and hyperdymanic carotid impulse on palpation
  • Apical impulse is displaced to left
  • S3 and a palpable thrill


  • Murmur
  • High pitched, blowing
  • Radiates to axilla
  • Best heard with the diaphragm of the stethoscope at apex in left lateral decubitus position
  • Intensity increases with hand grip or squatting
Acute MR

Chronic MR

  • Enlarged cardiac silhouette
  • Straightening of left heart border
  • Splaying of subcarinal angle
  • Calcification of mitral annulus
  • Double right heart border
  • Enlargement of left atrium and ventricle
  • Identify valve abnormality
  • Valve calcification
  • Severity of regurgitation
  • Grading of MR is done with left ventriculography
Atrial septal defect
  • Frequent respiratory or lung infections
  • Dyspnea
  • Tiring when feeding (Infants)
  • Shortness of breath on exertion
  • Palpitations
  • Swelling of feet
  • Precordial bulge
  • Precordial lift


  • Right ventricular impulse
  • Pulmonary artery pulsations
  • Thrill


  • Murmur
  • Midsystolic (ejection systolic) murmur
  • Widely split, fixed S2
  • Upper left sternal border
  • Increased pulmonary markings
  • Cardiomegaly
  • Triangular appearance of heart
  • Schimitar sign
Left Atrial Myxoma
  • Symptoms may mimic mitral stenosis


  • Lung: Fine crepitations
  • Heart: Characteristic "tumor plop"
  • Early diastolic sound as "tumor plop"
  • Low frequency diastolic murmur may be heard if the tumor obstructing mitral valve
  • Often normal
  • Often normal

Rare findings:

  • cardiomegaly
  • Left atrial enlargement
  • tumor calcification etc.,
  • Useful to detect vascular supply of the tumor by the coronary arteries
  • Associated with Carney complex (genetic predisposition)
Prosthetic Valve Obstruction
  • History of valve replacement
  • Systemic embolism
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue

Muffling of murmur

  • Muffling or disappearance of prosthetic sounds
  • Appearance of new regurgitant or obstructive murmur
  • Degree of stenosis
  • Assess thrombus size and location
  • Differentiate between thrombus, pannus and vegetations
  • Thrombus
  • Pannus formation
Cor Triatriatum
  • Dsypnea on exertion
  • Orthopnea
  • Tachypnea
  • Palpitations
  • Growth failure
  • Murmur

Other findings

  • Signs of heart failure
  • Diastolic murmur with loud P2
  • No opening snap or a loud S1
Non specific but may have
  • Normal cardiac silhouette
  • Hemodynamic changes similar to mitral stenosis (non specific findings)
  • Direct visualization of membrane through the atrium
  • +/- visualization of accessory chamber
  • Normal left ventricular hemodynamic profile with a trans atrial gradient
  • Cor triatriatum sinistrum
  • Cor triatriatum dextrum
Congenital Mitral Stenosis
  • Respiratory distress shortly after birth
  • Recurrent severe pulmonary infections
  • Other associated congenital cardiovascular anamolies
  • Atrial fibrillation


  • Exhaustion and sweating on feeding
  • Rapid breathing
  • Failure to thrive
  • Pulmonary infections
  • Chronic cough

Older patients:

  • Dyspnea
  • Orthopnea
  • Paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea
  • Peripheral edema
  • Fatigue
  • Murmur

Other findings

  • Signs of heart failure
  • Loud S1
  • Loud P2
  • Low frequency diastolic murmur best heard at the apex


  • Soft S1
  • Loud pulmonic component of S2 with minimal respiratory splitting of S2
  • Holodiastolic murmur with presystolic accentuation best heard at the apex
  • Early diastolic murmur of pulmonic valve regurgitation
  • Sharp P waves in leads I and II
  • Inversion of P wave in lead III
  • Marked Q waves in leads II and III
  • Left atrial dilation
  • Moderate enlargement of right heart
  • Pulmonary venous congestion
  • Esophageal compression
  • Reduced valve leaflet mobility
  • Left atrial size
  • Severity of mitral stenosis
Very rare condition
Supravalvular Ring Mitral Stenosis
  • Other associated congenital heart defects
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent respiratory infections
  • Failure to thrive
  • Poor feeding
  • Precocious congestive heart failure
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tachypnea
  • Dyspnea
  • Nocturnal cough
  • Heamoptysis
  • Syncope

Lungs: Fine, crepitant rales and rhonchi or wheezes may be present

Heart: Murmur

  • An apical mid diastolic murmur with presystolic accentuation
  • No opening snap
  • The murmur is more prominent if associated with VSD or PDA
  • Left atrial and ventricular enlargement
  • Alveolar edema
Supramitral ring:
  • Associated with normal mitral valve apparatus

Intramitral ring:

  • Hypomobility of the posterior leaflet
  • Reduced interpapillary muscle distance
  • Reduced chordal length
  • Dominant papillary muscle
  • Hypoplastic mitral annulus

(Difficult to visualize membrane <1mm in size)

  • Persistently elevated pulmonary venous pressures
  • Increased pulmonary artery pressure
  • Supramitral
  • Intramitral

It is attached between the opening of the atrial appendage and the mitral annulus which helps in differentiating with Cor triatriatum sinister.

  • Intramitral type is associated with shone complex


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