Update on ACC/AHA Valvular Heart Disease Guidelines 2020: Deep Dive into Aortic Stenosis Treatment Options

“2020 ACC/AHA Guideline for the Management of Patients with Valvular Heart Disease” was co-published in the Circulation and in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology on December 17th, 2020. In this article, I will provide the recommendations and updates from these guidelines particularly the new changes compared to the older valvular disease guideline statement from 2014 and a focused update from 2017 as it pertains to aortic stenosis. In developing these recommendations, the writing committee used the available research through March 1st, 2020. Given the explosion of trials and studies in aortic stenosis (AS) management, the guidelines serve as a one-stop-shop for clinicians to dive deep for some guidance while taking care of patients with AS.

Aortic valve Recommendations:

The major change from the previous guidelines is that for symptomatic patients with severe AS who are >80 years of age or for younger patients with a life expectancy <10 years, TAVI (transcatheter aortic valve implantation) is recommended (Class 1) while for symptomatic patients with severe AS between age 65-80 with no anatomic contraindication to transfemoral TAVI, shared decision-making is emphasized, and the recommendation is either SAVR (surgical aortic valve replacement) or TAVI (Class 1).  Timing of aortic stenosis treatment is still largely decided by symptoms; however, asymptomatic patients with severe AS and low EF <50% are considered Class 1 for treatment. Similarly asymptomatic patients with severe AS and decreased exercise tolerance, or a fall in systolic blood pressure of ≥10 mmHg from baseline to peak exercise, or very severe AS (V2 ≥5 m/s), a BNP level  >3 times normal, or serial testing shows an increase in V2 ≥0.3 m/s per year are a Class 2 indication for valve replacement. The guidelines note the evidence from low-risk PARTNER 3 and Evolut trials.

Class 1 indication for SAVR
Class 1/A: Symptomatic severe AS
Class 1/B-NR: Symptomatic low flow low gradient severe AS with reduced LV EF (left ventricular ejection fraction)
Class 1/B-NR: Symptomatic low flow low gradient severe AS with normal EF when AS is the cause of the symptoms.
Class 1/B-NR: Asymptomatic severe AS and an LVEF <50%
Class1/B-NR: Asymptomatic going for other cardiac surgery
Class 1 for  SAVR or TAVI
Class 1/A: Symptomatic severe AS patients 65 to 80 with no contraindication to TAVI either SAVR or TAVI
Class 1 for TAVI (transcatheter aortic valve implantation)
Class 1/A: Symptomatic severe AS patients >80 or for younger patients with a life expectancy <10 years, TAVI recommended
Class 1/B-NR Asymptomatic patients with age >80 years with severe AS and an LVEF<50


The guidelines put much emphasis on “shared decision making with the patient” taking into account the patient’s values and preferences and include the discussion of the risk of anticoagulation therapy and the potential need for and risk associated with aortic valve interventions. Another point to note from the guidelines is that the differences in the treatment approaches are driven by the overall risk of the patient. Risk assessment involves but is not limited to the STS(Society of Thoracic Surgeons) score. Per the new guidelines, low risk is defined by an STS score of <3%. A risk assessment also includes the determination of frailty, cardiac and other system compromises, and procedure-specific impediments. These are nicely outlined in the guidelines, and in my opinion, every general cardiologist should dive deep into these risk assessment tools to determine the risk associated with aortic valve procedural treatment accurately for an individual patient. Table 9 in the guidelines includes examples of procedure-specific risk factors for interventions not incorporated into existing risk scores. As the options for the treatment of aortic valve heart disease has broadened, the value of the multidisciplinary heart valve team and heart valve centers has become apparent and this is clearly recognized in the guidelines. Primary and comprehensive heart valve centers are defined by the expertise and treatment options offered in the management of patients with valvular heart disease.

Another point to note is that asymptomatic severe AS category, SAVR versus TAVI options are only available for patients with severe AS and low EF <50%. For other factors that indirectly identify LV decompensation or faster progression of AS like decreased exercise tolerance or a fall in systolic blood pressure of ≥10 mmHg from baseline to peak exercise or a BNP level i>3 times normal or serial testing shows an increase in V2 ≥0.3 m/s per year, SAVR is recommended in preference to TAVI.  As the level of evidence builds up for role of TAVI in an asymptomatic category, it has the potential to be truly be a game changer treatment option for AS patients.


Otto CM, Nishimura RA, Bonow RO, Carabello BA, Erwin JP 3rd, Gentile F, Jneid H, Krieger EV, Mack M, McLeod C, O’Gara PT, Rigolin VH, Sundt TM 3rd, Thompson A, Toly C. 2020 ACC/AHA guideline for the management of patients with valvular heart disease: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Joint Committee on Clinical Practice Guidelines [published online ahead of print December 17, 2020]. Circulation. doi: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000923

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The Key Messages from 2019 ACC/AHA Guideline on the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease

The newest ACC/AHA guidelines were just published and is exclusively discusses the primary prevention of CVDs and excludes the care of patients with known atherosclerotic cardiovascular diseases as they are classified as “secondary prevention.”1

Here are the most important messages from the 2019 ACC/AHA Guideline on the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease.1


Promotion of healthy lifestyle.


physical fitness to promote healthy lifestyle


Prevention in patients with known cardiovascular risk factors.


high blood pressure in prevention

high blood cholesterol in prevention

overweight and obesity

prevention in type 2 diabetes

prevention with smoking


Aspirin Use

Aspirin is well established for secondary prevention of ASCVD and is widely recommended for those with existing heart disease2. As per the new guideline, most adults without a history of heart disease should not take low-dose daily aspirin to prevent a first heart attack or stroke. Alow dose daily aspirin is recommended in the following instances.

aspirin use



  1. Arnett Donna K, Blumenthal Roger S, Albert Michelle A, Buroker Andrew B, Goldberger Zachary D, Hahn Ellen J, Himmelfarb Cheryl D, Khera A, Lloyd-Jones D, McEvoy JW, Michos Erin D, Miedema Michael D, Muñoz D, Smith Sidney C, Virani Salim S, Williams Kim A, Yeboah J and Ziaeian B. 2019 ACC/AHA Guideline on the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease. Circulation. 2019;0:CIR.0000000000000678.
  1. Piepoli MF, Hoes AW, Agewall S, Albus C, Brotons C, Catapano AL, Cooney MT, Corra U, Cosyns B, Deaton C, Graham I, Hall MS, Hobbs FDR, Lochen ML, Lollgen H, Marques-Vidal P, Perk J, Prescott E, Redon J, Richter DJ, Sattar N, Smulders Y, Tiberi M, van der Worp HB, van Dis I, Verschuren WMM and Binno S. 2016 European Guidelines on cardiovascular disease prevention in clinical practice: The Sixth Joint Task Force of the European Society of Cardiology and Other Societies on Cardiovascular Disease Prevention in Clinical Practice (constituted by representatives of 10 societies and by invited experts)Developed with the special contribution of the European Association for Cardiovascular Prevention & Rehabilitation (EACPR). Eur Heart J. 2016;37:2315-2381.