Dr. M.J. Bazos, MD Patient Handout


About Your Diagnosis
The aorta is the large artery that leaves the heart from the left ventricle. The aortic valve is between the left ventricle and the aorta. Aortic regurgitation (also called aortic insufficiency) is the leaking of blood from the aorta back through the aortic valve into the left ventricle when the ventricle is contracting. This causes the left ventricle to swell over time to compensate for the extra blood in it. Left heart failure may occur after many years if this should happen. If the valve regurgitation is more severe, it may cause failure sooner. Because the valve is not functioning normally, the blood flowing through creates a turbulence called a heart murmur. Aortic regurgitation is caused by a defect in the aortic valve. This may be caused by infections such as rheumatic fever (usually from streptococcal infections earlier in life) or endocarditis (a bacterial infection in the heart). Aortic regurgitation also may be caused by enlargement of the base of the aorta from injury or a genetic condition. It is detected by means of listening to the heart with a stethoscope and hearing a specific type of murmur in a specific area. If the patient already has symptoms of heart failure, the signs are found during an examination or on a chest radiograph (x-ray). An echocardiogram (ultrasound examination of the heart) is performed to give a better view of the valve.

Living With Your Diagnosis
Most patients with aortic regurgitation have no symptoms. The symptoms that do occur are those of heart failure, such as fatigue, difficulty breathing, especially when lying down, coughing, or shortness of breath. Some patients feel chest pain or pain in the upper middle back. Abnormally functioning valves are often targets for infection. If you have aortic valve problems, you should take antibiotics as prescribed before and after dental or surgical procedures. If you have no symptoms, no changes in lifestyle or treatment are needed. Smoking and obesity strain the heart. Lose weight and stop smoking to lessen the workload of the heart. If you have no symptoms, you can exercise.

If symptoms exist, the therapy is similar to that for heart failure. This means weight loss, stopping smoking, restricting salt and excess fluid in the diet, and rest. Medications may be needed. Once symptoms of aortic regurgitation occur, aortic valve replacement may be necessary.

The DOs
•Exercise regularly.
•Lose extra body weight.
•Take antibiotics (if prescribed) before and after dental or surgical procedures.

The DON’Ts
•Do not be concerned if you have no symptoms.
•Do not delay treatment if you do have symptoms.

When to Call Your Doctor
•If symptoms develop such as shortness of breath, chest or upper back pain, palpitations or rapid heartbeat, or fainting.