Aortic regurgitation

What is aortic regurgitation?

The left large chamber of the heart i.e. left ventricle pumps blood out of the heart to the rest of the body. There is a door that connects this chamber to a big vessel i.e. aorta, which in turn supplies blood to the body. This door prevents the blood pumped into the aorta from leaking back into the heart. This door is called  the "aortic valve". Aortic regurgitation occurs when this door is unable to close completely, resulting in the leaking of some pumped blood back into the left large chamber of the heart i.e. the ventricle. This results in a lot of complications.

What are the symptoms seen with aortic regurgitation?

Patients can experience symptoms including:

1- Shortness of breath

2- Chest pain

3- Palpitations 

4- Head bobbing


Upon examination, the physician may detect a murmur i.e. an abnormal heart sound.

What are the causes?

It is most commonly caused by the dilatation of the first part of the big vessel that supplies blood from the heart to the body (Aorta). Other causes include:

1- Damage to the aortic valve

2- Old age

3- People who have a history of untreated syphilis

4- People with a few genetic disorders

5- High blood pressure

How to diagnose?

Clinical symptoms are usually the first clinical clue, other workup includes:

1- Chest X-ray: It will show fluid in lungs or an enlarged heart in this condition.

2- EKG: It is a quick test to check the electrical activity of the heart, it can provide the physician information regarding previous heart attacks or heart rhythm problems which can result in this condition.

3- Echocardiography: It is an ultrasound of the heart, and gives information about the functioning of the heart valves. It is the best test to diagnose this condition.

4- Heart catheterization: It is a test in which a thin tube is introduced into a vessel to reach the heart, where we look for blockade in the heart vessels. This procedure can also be used to do some calculations, which provide information about the heart functioning. 

What is the treatment?

Mild/No symptoms: When the symptoms are mild, then the patient won't need surgical treatment right away, but instead would only be monitored and started on medications to improve the symptoms.

Severe symptoms: Severe symptoms require urgent intervention and replacement of the valve surgically.