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Aortic Valve Regurgitation - Overview

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What is aortic valve regurgitation?

Aortic valve regurgitation is a problem with the aortic valve. The aortic valve allows blood to flow from the heart's lower left chamber (ventricle) into the aorta and to the body. When the heart rests between beats, the valve closes to keep blood from flowing backward into the heart.

When you have aortic valve regurgitation, the aortic valve doesn't close as it should. With each heartbeat, some of the blood leaks back (regurgitates) through the aortic valve into the left ventricle. The body does not get enough blood, so the heart has to work harder to make up for it. See a picture of aortic valve regurgitation camera.gif.

You can have this problem for a long time and not know it. It may take years for symptoms to start. This is called chronic aortic valve regurgitation. In rare cases, the valve problem starts suddenly and without warning. This is called acute aortic valve regurgitation. It requires medical help right away.

What causes aortic valve regurgitation?

Any condition that damages the aortic valve can cause aortic valve regurgitation. Common causes of chronic valve problems include:

The most common causes of sudden (acute) aortic valve regurgitation include:

What are the symptoms?

For chronic regurgitation, you may not have any symptoms at first. But over time you may have:

  • Fatigue or weakness.
  • Shortness of breath, most often when you are active.
  • A fast, slow, or uneven heartbeat (arrhythmia).
  • A feeling that your heart is pounding, racing, or beating unevenly (palpitations).
  • Chest pain or pressure (angina), often brought on by exercise, when the heart has to work harder.
  • Fainting.

When the valve problem is acute, these symptoms are sudden, often more intense, and life-threatening.

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