What is Aortic Valve?

As your biology lessons taught you, aorta is the largest artery in the human body. It originates from the left ventricle of the heart and extends down to the abdomen supplying the oxygenated blood to other parts of the human body. The aortic valve is located between the left ventricle and the aorta.

What is Aortic Valve Regurgitation?

Aortic valve regurgitation or aortic regurgitation is a condition when the aortic valve of the heart does not close tightly, causing the blood pumped out of the main chamber to leak back. There will be leakage in the aortic valve each time the left ventricle relaxes. The heart muscles are forced to overwork in order to compensate for the leaked blood. The walls of the ventricles may thicken and result in the inefficiency of the heart to pump blood. The heart will struggle to pump enough blood for the body’s requirements leading to a heart failure. Aortic regurgitation can be chronic or sudden.

Causes of Aortic Valve Regurgitation

Aortic regurgitation may occur due to a variety of reasons. Any damage in the aortic valve may cause aortic regurgitation. Weakening of the tissues of the valves with age is a common cause of aortic regurgitation. Some of the other causes of aortic regurgitation include:

  • Congenital heart disease: In patients born with bicuspid valve or unicuspid valve or damaged aortic valve, aortic regurgitation may occur. 

  • Hardening of the arteries

  • Expansion of the aorta  due to high blood pressure

  • Rheumatic fever- Sometimes rheumatic fever can damage the aortic valve

  • Endocarditis: An infection inside the heart 

  • Trauma: A severe chest injury causing the damage of valves 

  • Health conditions: Certain other diseases like Marfan syndrome may lead to aortic valve regurgitation.  

Symptoms of Aortic Valve Regurgitation
In chronic aortic regurgitation, symptoms will hardly be visible in the initial stages. Slowly the patient may show the following symptoms:  

  • Shortness of breath
  • Fainting 
  • Fatigue and weakness of the body
  • Arrhythmia- a condition of uneven heartbeat
  • Heart palpitation 
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty in breathing 
  • Swollen ankles

In patients of acute valve regurgitation, the symptoms may suddenly show up leading to fatal condition.
Treatment for Aortic Valve Regurgitation
Aortic regurgitation can be diagnosed through a thorough physical examination like analysing the blood pressure, heart beat, and pulse by the doctor. Electrocardiogram, echocardiogram, cardiac catherization, x-ray or a MRI scan are used to confirm the condition.
The treatment of the condition largely depends on the ability of the heart to pump blood, age, severity of the regurgitation and other risks related to surgery. People suffering from mild aortic valve regurgitation may not need treatment. However, it is recommended to frequently check aortic regurgitation using an echocardiogram.
In severe condition, the aortic valve will need surgical repair or replacement. Through a heart valve surgery, the aortic valve is repaired to improve its function pr replaced with a mechanical valve or tissue valve. The procedure involves open heart surgery under general anaesthesia.

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