Aortic Regurgitation

What is the aortic valve and what is aortic regurgitation?

The aortic valve is a heart valve that lies between the left ventricle and the aorta. When the left ventricle relaxes, the aortic valve closes and the mitral valve opens. This allows more blood into the ventricle, ready for the next heartbeat.

Aortic regurgitation is sometimes called aortic incompetence or a leaky aortic valve. In aortic regurgitation the valve does not close properly. Therefore, blood leaks back (regurgitates) into the left ventricle from the aorta.

In some cases, aortic regurgitation occurs at the same time as aortic stenosis. Read more about aortic stenosis.

What are the treatments for aortic regurgitation?

If the backflow of blood is mild and you have no symptoms then you may not need any treatment. If you develop symptoms or complications, various medicines may be advised to ease the symptoms. Surgery may be advised if symptoms become worse.

Medication

Medication may be advised to help ease symptoms of heart failure if heart failure develops - for example, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and/or 'water' tablets (diuretics). See separate leaflet called Heart Failure for more details on treatment methods.

Surgery

Surgical options include repair of the aortic valve or replacement of the valve. The most recent guideline recommends replacement as the preferred option in most cases.

Valve replacement surgery may be with a mechanical or a tissue valve. Mechanical valves are made of materials which are not likely to react with your body, such as titanium. Tissue valves are made from treated animal tissue, such as valves from a pig. If you need surgery, a surgeon will advise on which is the best option for your situation.

Surgical treatment has greatly improved the outlook in most people with more severe regurgitation. The outlook (prognosis) is good if the valve is treated before the heart becomes badly damaged.

What is the outcome?

The outcome (prognosis) will depend on the underlying cause and the severity of aortic regurgitation. The outcome is generally poor if there is no treatment but is good with available modern treatments.

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Author:
Dr Colin Tidy
Peer Reviewer:
Dr Adrian Bonsall
Document ID:
4723 (v45)
Last Checked:
21 September 2017
Next Review:
20 September 2020

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Patient Platform Limited has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.