What is aortic valve regurgitation?
Aortic regurgitation is leakage of the aortic valve each time the left ventricle relaxes.
A leaking (or regurgitant) aortic valve allows blood to flow in two directions. Oxygen-rich blood either flows out through the aorta to the body — as it should — or it flows backwards from the aorta into the left ventricle when the ventricle relaxes.
What happens during aortic regurgitation?
The volume and pressure of blood in the left ventricle may increase. As a result, the heart may have to do more work to compensate. The walls of the ventricle will sometimes thicken (hypertrophy), and a thickened heart muscle is less effective. Eventually, the heart maybe unable to meet the body’s need for blood, leading to heart failure. Aortic regurgitation can also cause the aorta to bulge or have weak spots susceptible to aortic aneurysm.
What are the symptoms of aortic valve regurgitation?
Mild aortic regurgitation produces no symptoms other than a characteristic heart murmur that can be heard with the stethoscope each time the left ventricle relaxes.
People with severe aortic regurgitation may notice palpitations because the left ventricle enlarges and eventually contracts more forcefully. Over time, the back-up and resulting changes to the heart as it compensates can lead to heart failure.
What causes aortic regurgitation?
The most common causes of severe aortic regurgitation are weakening of the valve tissue due to aging processes, which can cause the valve flaps to become floppy. Mild aortic regurgitation is commonly caused by high blood pressure, bacterial infection of the heart valve or injury.
How is aortic regurgitation treated?
Mild aortic regurgitation may be treatable with medications to prevent stroke or medications that help maintain the heart’s pumping rhythm, but surgical repairs are usually required in more severe cases.
This content was last reviewed on 02/18/13.