Aortic valve regurgitation is when the aortic valve doesn’t close properly after each heartbeat, allowing blood to leak backward. Aortic valve stenosis is when the aortic valve narrows, preventing blood from flowing properly into the aorta and the rest of the body. This condition also is called aortic insufficiency. Heart valves can have both conditions (aortic valve regurgitation and stenosis) at the same time.
Symptoms can include:
- Fainting with exertion
- Difficulty catching your breath
- Abnormal heartbeats
- Chest pain
If you have these conditions, surgical therapy is the best option; they’re not curable with medical therapy alone, and symptoms typically worsen over time. Most patients recover well after surgery.
What Is Aortic Valve Regurgitation and Stenosis?
The aortic valve is the final “door” blood goes through as it leaves the heart’s left ventricle (main pump) en route to the aorta (main artery bringing blood throughout the body). When aortic valve regurgitation or stenosis is present, the left ventricle must work harder than normal to pump blood, causing fatigue and other symptoms. Problems with valves can be a cause of heart failure.
What Causes Aortic Valve Regurgitation and Stenosis?
Aortic valve regurgitation and stenosis can be caused by congenital heart defects, including deformities such as bicuspid aortic valve. In this condition, the valve has two flaps rather than the normal three.
Aortic valve regurgitation and stenosis also can be caused by infections in the heart such as rheumatic fever and endocarditis; as well as by some diseases and changes due to aging.
Aortic Valve Regurgitation and Stenosis
Often a heart valve disease is diagnosed when a physician hears abnormal sounds (heart murmur) through a stethoscope. Diagnostic tests to specify the valve disease include:
Electrocardiogram (EKG/ECG) – A test that records the electrical activity of the heart.
Chest X-ray – A radiograph or picture of the heart and lungs including blood vessels, ribs and bones of the spine.
Transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) – A test to provide an image of heart structures; a small transducer (like a microphone) is passed down the esophagus to produce the image.
Echocardiogram (also called echo) – This test uses sound waves to assess the function and structure of the heart muscle and valves.
Cardiac catheterization – A procedure to check for problems in coronary arteries. A long, thin tube (catheter) is inserted into an artery or vein in the groin, arm or neck, then threaded to the heart. The physician injects a contrast solution into the artery and takes X-rays to check for blockage and other abnormalities.
Exercise stress test – A test performed on a treadmill or stationary bicycle to measure heart, lung and muscle function during physical activity. You are attached to an electrocardiogram (EKG/ECG) to record electrical activity of the heart.
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