Aortic insufficiency

Aortic insufficiency is a form of heart disease where the aortic valve does not close properly. The aortic valve is the valve connecting the heart to the rest of the body, and it opens and closes with each heartbeat. The function of the aortic valve is to make blood flow from the heart to the rest of the body. If the aortic valve does not close, some blood leaks back into the heart with each heart beat.

Aortic insufficiency is also known as aortic regurgitation.

Some factors which can cause aortic insufficiency are:

  • Infection of the heart valve (endocarditis)
  • Aortic aneurysm
  • Bicuspid valve (this is a congenital abnormality of the valve)

People with aortic insufficiency usually do not have any symptoms until the condition becomes severe. They may experience shortness of breath, chest pain, or palpitations. Untreated aortic insufficiency for a long time can lead to heart failure. However, sudden worsening of aortic valve function (usually due to injury or infection) can be an emergency and require surgery immediately.

Aortic insufficiency can be diagnosed with an echocardiogram or a heart catheterization. Many people with severe aortic insufficiency will require surgery, since there is no medication to treat this condition. Surgery for aortic insuffiency is open heart surgery to replace the abnormal valve. Your doctor can describe the operation in detail and discuss the types of valve replacement options available to you.