Problem: Aortic Valve Regurgitation

Valve Regurgitation: When a Heart Valve Leaks

What's aortic valve regurgitation?

Aortic regurgitation is leakage of blood through 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 flows out through the aorta to the body — as it should — but some flows backward from the aorta into the left ventricle when the ventricle relaxes.

Watch a valve regurgitation animation.

Regurgitation animation

What happens during aortic regurgitation?

The heart will have to do more work to compensate for the blood leak back into the left ventricle. The walls of the ventricle sometimes thicken (hypertrophy), and a thickened heart muscle is a less effective pump. Eventually, the heart may be unable to pump enough to meet the body’s need for blood, leading to heart failure.

What are the symptoms of aortic valve regurgitation?

Mild aortic regurgitation may produce few symptoms.

People with more severe aortic regurgitation may notice heart palpitations, chest pain, fatigue or shortness of breath. Other symptoms include difficulty breathing when lying down, weakness, fainting or swollen ankles and feet.

What causes aortic regurgitation?

Common causes of severe aortic regurgitation are bicuspid valve disease, congenital abnormalities, primary diseases in the ascending aorta or dilated aortic sinuses. Acute aortic regurgitation can be caused from bacterial infections of the heart tissue, after chest trauma or from calcific valve disease.

How is aortic regurgitation treated?

Severe aortic regurgitation may be treatable with medications to reduce blood clotting and reduce the risk of stroke, but surgical repairs or replacement are often needed.

Video: Understanding Heart Murmurs, Aortic and Mitral Valve Problems

Heart Valve Disease Resources

Find out more about your heart valves and how to manage heart valve disease.