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Aortic Insufficiency

(Aortic Regurgitation; Aortic Incompetence)

Definition

The aorta is the main artery carrying oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the body. After each heartbeat, the valve closes tightly to prevent blood from flowing backwards into the heart. Aortic insufficiency occurs when the aortic valve does not close tightly enough.

There are two types of aortic insufficiency:

  • Acute aortic insufficiency —symptoms develop rapidly, and in severe cases, immediate surgery may be needed
  • Chronic aortic insufficiency —symptoms develop over the course of many months or years

Aortic Valve Insufficiency

FS00001_96472_1_Aortic Valve Regurgitation Insufficiency.jpg
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes    TOP

Aortic insufficiency can be caused by:

Sometimes the cause of aortic insufficiency is unknown.

Risk Factors    TOP

Factors that may increase your chances of aortic insufficiency include:

  • Family history of aortic insufficiency
  • High blood pressure
  • Use of drugs such as weight loss and appetite suppressant medications

Symptoms    TOP

Symptoms of aortic insufficiency include:

  • Shortness of breath with activity
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Lightheadedness
  • Chest pain
  • Heart palpitations
  • Irregular heartbeat—arrhythmia
  • Fainting
  • Difficulty breathing when lying flat

Diagnosis    TOP

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

Images may be taken of your heart. This can be done with:

Treatment    TOP

Treatment options depend on the severity and history of the valve leakage. It also depends on its effects on the heart’s size and function. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you.

In chronic and slowly progressive aortic insufficiency, treatment may involve taking medication. Surgery is needed in severe cases.

Depending on your condition, your doctor may schedule routine physical exams and echocardiograms.

Medication

Medications cannot fix the valve, but they can be used to treat aortic insufficiency. Medication used may include:

  • Diuretics—to treat high blood pressure and rid the body of excess fluids
  • Calcium channel blockers—to reduce leaking and, in some cases, delay the need for surgery
  • High blood pressure medications
  • Antibiotics used before dental and surgical procedures to prevent infection

If the condition is rapidly declining, surgery is needed.

Surgery

There are several open heart surgeries that can fix leaking valves. The type chosen will depend on the valve and the knowledge of the surgeon.

Prevention    TOP

Aortic insufficiency may not be preventable. If you have a family history, talk with your doctor about screening tests.

RESOURCES:

American Heart Association
http://www.heart.org
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
http://www.heartandstroke.ca
Public Health Agency of Canada
https://www.canada.ca

References:

Aortic regurgitation. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated September 1, 2017. Accessed September 15, 2017.
Coarctation of aorta. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated June 16, 2017. Accessed September 15, 2017.
Congenital heart defects. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated April 2015. Accessed September 15, 2017.
Explore congenital heart defects. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/chd. Updated July 1, 2011. Accessed September 15, 2017.
Problem: Aortic valve regurgitation. American Heart Association website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated September 7, 2017. Accessed September 15, 2017.
Last reviewed September 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC
Last Updated: 8/20/2014

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