Heart & Vascular

Aortic Regurgitation

A properly functioning aortic valve is like the door that allows blood to flow from the heart's left ventricle into the aorta and from there on to the brain and other organs. Aortic regurgitation occurs when some of the blood leaks back into the heart instead of traveling throughout the body. This backward flow of blood into the left ventricle slowly causes damage, stretching it out. There are many reasons for the aortic valve to become leaky, including a dilated aorta (aneurysm), age related degeneration, or complications of rheumatic fever. It can develop suddenly or over a long period of time.

Symptoms of aortic regurgitation include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling in the ankles
  • Trouble breathing when laying flat

Video: What is aortic valve replacement?

Tests used to diagnose aortic regurgitation include:

  • Physical exam, to listen for a heart murmur during the relaxing phase of the cardiac cycle (diastole)
  • Echocardiography, to identify the leaky aortic valve and measure the severity
  • Transesophageal echocardiography, to clarify the reason for the leakiness of the aortic valve
  • CT scan, to assess the size of the aorta

Treatment options for aortic regurgitation include:

  • Aortic valve replacement
  • Combined aortic root and valve replacement
  • Medical management with medication to treat symptoms including diuretics to remove excess fluid