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Aortic valve
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Aortic valve regurgitation - aortic regurgitation - aortic insufficiency or aortic incompetence

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HEART & BLOOD

Heart Disease

Aortic valve regurgitation develops when the aortic valve does not function correctly. To understand this condition, it's helpful to know how the aortic valve normally functions. The aortic valve works like a one-way gate, opening so that blood from the left ventricle (the heart's main pump) can be pushed into the aorta, the large artery leaving the heart. From the aorta, oxygen-rich blood flows into the branching arteries and through the body to feed the cells. When the heart rests between beats, the aortic valve closes to keep blood from flowing backward into the heart. Aortic valve regurgitation - or aortic regurgitation - is a condition that occurs when your heart's aortic valve doesn't close tightly. This condition allows blood just pumped out of your heart to leak back into it.

The leakage of blood may prevent your heart from efficiently pumping blood out to the rest of your body. If your heart isn't working efficiently, you may feel fatigued and short of breath, among other problems.

Aortic regurgitation can develop suddenly or over decades. It has a variety of causes, such as rheumatic fever. Once regurgitation becomes severe, surgery is usually required to repair or replace the aortic valve.

Aortic regurgitation is also called aortic insufficiency or aortic incompetence.

Signs and symptoms

Most often aortic regurgitation develops gradually, and your heart compensates for the problem. You may have no signs or symptoms for many years, and you may even be unaware that you have this condition.

However, as aortic regurgitation progresses, signs and symptoms usually appear and may include:

  • Fatigue and weakness, especially during times of increased activity

  • Shortness of breath, especially with exertion or when you lie down

  • Chest pain, discomfort or tightness, often increasing during exercise

  • Fainting

  • Rapid or irregular pulse

  • Heart palpitations — sensations of a rapid, fluttering heartbeat

  • Swollen ankles and feet

 

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Last Modified : 05/14/08 07:39 AM