What is Aortic Insufficiency?
Aortic insufficiency, also known as aortic regurgitation, is a valvular heart condition that develops when the heart's aortic valve is damaged and develops leaks, causing blood to flow in the wrong direction.
Causes of Aortic Insufficiency
Causes of aortic insufficiency include:
- Congenital heart valve disease
- Narrowing of the aortic valve
- Rheumatic fever
- Marfan syndrome
- Tear or injury to the aorta
- Endocarditis (Inflammation of the lining of the heart valves and chambers)
- High blood pressure
- Untreated syphilis
- Lupus (autoimmune disorder)
Symptoms of Aortic Insufficiency
The condition can develop gradually, and you may not experience symptoms for many years or symptoms may occur abruptly and may include:
- Shortness of breath when you lie down
- Fatigue and weakness, especially with increased activity
- Heart murmur
- Irregular pulse (arrhythmia)
- Lightheadedness or fainting
- Chest pain (angina) or discomfort during exercise
- Heart palpitations
- Swollen ankles and feet
Diagnosis of Aortic Insufficiency
Your doctor will review your medical history and symptoms and based on this a physical examination will be performed including listening for a heart murmur with a stethoscope. The following diagnostic tests may be recommended:
- Electrocardiogram (ECG): This test records the heart’s electrical activity.
- Echocardiogram: An echocardiogram is a test that creates a moving image of the heart using sound waves. This helps in the detection of anomalies in the heart muscle, valves, and any surrounding fluid.
- Chest x-rays: Chest radiography is performed to assess heart size, lung disorders, or detect tumors in the chest cavity. A chest X-ray also shows the condition of the lungs.
- Cardiac Catheterization: Cardiac catheterization is a minimally invasive procedure sometimes used to diagnose and treat certain heart conditions. It involves passing a thin flexible tube through a blood vessel in the groin or arm up to the heart. It can help visualize the blood vessels and chambers of the heart with X-rays using a special dye.
- Cardiac MRI: This test creates detailed images of your heart, including the aorta and aortic valve, using a magnetic field and radio waves.
Treatment for Aortic Insufficiency
Treatment of aortic insufficiency depends on the severity of your condition. To treat the symptoms of mild aortic insufficiency or to lower your risk of developing significant consequences, your doctor may prescribe medications to lower blood pressure.
Surgery for aortic insufficiency includes:
- Aortic Valve Repair: Your doctor may need to separate fused valve flaps (cusps), reshape, or remove extra valve tissue so that the cusps can shut firmly, or patch holes in a valve to repair a damaged aortic valve. A catheter operation may be used to repair a leaking replacement aortic valve.
- Aortic Valve Replacement: During this surgery, your surgeon will remove the diseased aortic valve and replace it with a mechanical valve, or a valve manufactured from cow, pig, or human heart tissue (biological tissue valve). The transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) procedure replaces a constricted aortic valve with a biological tissue valve in a minimally invasive cardiac procedure.