Share this page

Health Library

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 heart beat, 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

Aortic insufficiency can be caused by:

Sometimes the cause of aortic insufficiency is unknown.

Risk Factors

Factors that increase your chances of developing aortic insufficiency include:

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

Symptoms of aortic insufficiency include:

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

Your doctor will ask 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

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 medicine. Surgery is needed in severe cases.

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

Medication

Medicines cannot fix the valve, but they can be used to treat aortic insufficiency. Medicines 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 medicines
  • 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

In most cases, this condition cannot be prevented. Ask your doctor if you should take an antibiotic before dental and other procedures. This can help to prevent infection.

RESOURCES:

American Heart Association
http://www.heart.org

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Public Health Agency of Canada
http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca

Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
http://www.heartandstroke.ca

References:

Aortic regurgitation. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated November 10, 2012. Accessed May 8, 2013.

Aortic valve stenosis (AS) and aortic insufficiency (AI). American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/idc/groups/heart-public/@wcm/@hcm/documents/downloadable/ucm_307649.pdf. Published 2009. Accessed May 8, 2013.

Coarctation of aorta. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 28, 2012. Accessed May 8, 2013.

Congenital heart defects. Nemours KidsHealth.org website. Available at: http://www.kidshealth.org/parent/medical/heart/congenital_heart_defects.html . Updated January 2012. Accessed May 8, 2013.

Scognamiglio R, Rahimtoola SH, Fasoli G, Nistri S, Dalla Volta S. Nifedipine in asymptomatic patients with severe aortic regurgitation and normal left ventricular function. N Engl J Med. 1994;331:689.

What are congenital heart defects? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/chd/chd_what.html. Accessed May 8, 2013.



Last reviewed March 2014 by Michael J. Fucci, DO

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Baptist Flame

Health Library

Find A Doctor

Services

Locations

Baptist Medical Clinic

Patients & Visitors

Learn

Contact Us

Physician Tools

Careers at Baptist

Employee Links

Online Services

At Baptist Health Systems

At Baptist Medical Center

close ×