Aortic Regurgitation (Aortic Insufficiency)

What is aortic regurgitation?

Aortic regurgitation, also known as aortic insufficiency, is a heart condition characterized by a leaky heart valve that causes blood to flow from the aorta into the left ventricle rather than from the left ventricle to the aorta. This condition can keep blood from flowing properly throughout your body, which can lead to symptoms such as shortness of breath, fatigue, dizziness or lightheadedness, fainting, and chest pain.

There are different classifications of aortic regurgitation, including acute and chronic. Acute aortic regurgitation can develop suddenly. Chronic aortic regurgitation persists for long periods of time. It can even continue for decades.

What causes aortic regurgitation?

Anything that damages the aortic valve can lead to aortic regurgitation. Some conditions that can cause aortic regurgitation include:

  • congenital defects in the heart valve
  • changes to the heart (often age-related)
  • an infection in the heart (endocarditis)
  • rheumatic fever
  • trauma to the chest
  • diseases that can enlarge the aorta or aortic valve, like Marfan syndrome and lupus

Diagnosing Aortic Regurgitation

If you have signs or symptoms of aortic valve regurgitation, your doctor may conduct a physical exam, ask you about your family health history, and order some tests to confirm a suspected diagnosis or determine what is causing your condition and how severe it is.

Some of the diagnostic tests for aortic regurgitation are:

Aortic Regurgitation treatment options

Treatment of aortic valve regurgitation depends upon the severity of the condition, the degree to which the symptoms are affecting your life, and whether your condition is declining. Some of the potential treatment options are:

  • Watchful waiting with follow-up visits and monitoring
  • Making lifestyle changes
  • Taking medications
  • Heart valve surgery

If your condition is severe enough, surgery may be the best treatment option for you. There are a few procedures that may be used to treat aortic regurgitation:

Most of the aortic valves replaced at Beaumont are done through minimally invasive techniques. Talk to your heart specialist about which type of surgery is best for you.