Aortic insufficiency

Alternative Names

Aortic valve prolapse; Aortic regurgitation

Definition of Aortic insufficiency

Aortic insufficiency is a heart valve disease in which the aortic valve weakens or balloons, preventing the valve from closing tightly. This leads to the backward flow of blood from the aorta (the largest blood vessel) into the left ventricle (the left lower chamber of the heart).

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Aortic insufficiency can result from any condition that weakens the aortic valve. The condition causes dilation (widening) of the left lower chamber of the heart, which continues to get worse with time. As this area of the heart becomes dilated, it is less able to pump blood to the rest of the aorta. The heart tries to make up for the problem by sending out larger amounts of blood with each heart contraction. This leads to a strong and forceful pulse ().

Signs and tests

The doctor may hear a heart murmur when listening to the chest with a stethoscope. Palpation (examination by hand) may reveal a very forceful beating of the heart.

Treatment

If there are no symptoms or if symptoms are mild, you may only need to get an echocardiogram from time to time and be monitored by a health care provider.

Expectations (prognosis)

Aortic insufficiency is curable with surgical repair. This can completely relieve symptoms unless severe heart failure is present or other complications develop. Without treatment, patients with angina or congestive heart failure do poorly.

Review

Issam Mikati, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine. Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 5/7/2010

Heart, section through the middle
Heart, front view
Aortic insufficiency

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

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