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What is aortic regurgitation (aortic insufficiency)?

Gregory P. Fontana, MD
Thoracic Surgery (Cardiothoracic Vascular)
Learn how a leaking aortic valve affects the heart, what symptoms this condition presents and how it can be repaired. Watch this video with cardiovascular surgeon Gregory Fontana, MD from Los Robles Hospital & Medical Center.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Aortic regurgitation means that blood flowing out of the heart into the aorta—the largest blood vessel in your body—can flow backwards into the heart. Watch this animation to see how aortic regurgitation prevents the heart from pumping blood effectively.



Aortic valve regurgitation is when the leaflets of the valve between the heart and the aorta (the main artery leading away from the heart) do not close tightly enough. In a heart with healthy valves, blood travels from the heart, through the aortic valve to the aorta, and then through smaller arteries and other blood vessels to the rest of the body. If the aortic valve is not functioning correctly, the body does not receive critical oxygen and nutrients.
 
To help control the symptoms of aortic valve regurgitation, your physician may prescribe medications to reduce fluid retention in the body, control high blood pressure, or prevent or treat a bacterial infection.
 
More serious aortic valve regurgitation may require surgery for valve repair or replacement. Valve repair can consist of reconstruction of valve leaflets or a portion of the aorta itself. If valve replacement is indicated, your natural valve is replaced with either a mechanical one or a tissue one from a human, a cow or a pig.
In addition to the risk of death associated with aortic aneurysm and dissection, an aneurysm can dilate the base of the aortic valve, causing aortic valve regurgitation. With regurgitation, the valve fails to adequately seal, allowing the reverse flow of blood and resulting in an inadequate blood flow to the body. As this process ensues, the heart may enlarge and ultimately cause congestive heart failure.

Aortic regurgitation (AR) is also known as aortic insufficiency (AI). It is a condition in which the aortic valve in the heart does not close completely. Because the valve never closes completely, blood leaks backward from the aorta into the left ventricle.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.