Aortic Regurgitation

The normal heart has two upper and two lower chambers. The upper chambers called “right and left atrium” collect blood flowing in from the body and in from the lungs. The lower chambers called “ventricles” collect blood from the atria then pump it forcefully out. The right ventricle pumps out to the lungs while the left ventricle pumps to the aorta.

The heart valves, which keep blood flowing in the right direction, are gates at the chamber openings. Each of these valves have flaps (cusps) that open and close once during each heartbeat. The aortic valve is one of the main valves on the left side of the heart. The aortic valve has three flaps. It opens when the left ventricle squeezes to pump out blood, and closes in between heart beats to keep blood from going backward into the heart. In aortic valve disease, the aortic valve may not be closing properly, which causes blood to leak backward to the left ventricle (regurgitation), or the valve may be narrowed (stenosis).

Aortic valve regurgitation is a condition in which blood leaks back through the valve as the heart relaxes. This leakage may prevent your heart from efficiently pumping blood to the rest of your body. As a result, you may feel fatigued and short of breath, and can potentially lead to heart failure.

Aortic Regurgitation

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Causes of Aortic Regurgitation

Although the exact cause is unknown, certain conditions, traits or habits may raise your risk for the disease. These conditions are known as risk factors and include:

Non-modifiable risk factors: These factors are irreversible and cannot be changed. The more of these risk factors you have, the greater your chance of aortic regurgitation.

  • Older age
  • Family History/Genetics

Modifiable risk factors: These factors can be modified, treated or controlled through medications or lifestyle changes.

Other conditions that contribute to Aortic Regurgitation

Symptoms of Aortic Regurgitation

There are varying degrees of aortic regurgitation. Patients may have a mild, moderate or severe leaking of the valve. Some patients with aortic regurgitation may not experience symptoms for many years. With time, however, patients with severe aortic regurgitation may develop symptoms which may include some or all of the following:

  • Heart palpitations: when you feel like your heart is racing, pounding or fluttering
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness
  • Lightheadedness/Fainting
  • Swollen ankles and feet

Diagnosis of Aortic Regurgitation

Your doctor will ask you about symptoms and perform a physical examination which will include listening to your heart with a stethoscope to identify a heart murmur (whooshing or swishing sounds) . After that, you may also have:

Diagnostic Tests and Procedures

Treatment of Aortic Regurgitation

Treatment of aortic regurgitation depends on the severity of your disease which is determined by signs, symptoms and testing. Based on the findings, your doctor may recommend the following treatment options:

Lifestyle changes

  • Avoid smoking
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet
  • Exercise under directions of your doctor
  • Manage stress
  • Address risk factors for coronary artery disease such as obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol
  • Make and keep appointments to see your doctor for routine check-ups and follow-up tests

Medications

  • Beta blockers will help reduce your blood pressure
  • Diuretics “water pills” will help reduce the amount of fluid retention in your body

Medical and surgical procedures

Saint Barnabas Medical Center
94 Old Short Hills Road
Livingston, NJ 07039
(973) 322-5000
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Newark Beth Israel Medical Center
201 Lyons Avenue at Osborne Terrace
Newark, NJ 07112
(973) 926-7000
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Jersey City Medical Center
355 Grand Street
Jersey City, NJ 07302
(201) 915-2000
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Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
1 Robert Wood Johnson Place
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
(732) 828-3000
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Aortic Regurgitation Treatment & Care

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