Aortic regurgitation is a disease that affects the aortic valve, one of four valves within the heart. The aortic valve is the last valve blood passes through as it exits the heart to the body.
Aortic regurgitation occurs when the aortic valve does not close properly, causing it to leak. This allows a certain percentage of blood to move backwards into the heart. The left ventricle must therefore pump more blood than usual, and gradually enlarges because of the extra workload.
The main causes are:
- Congenital – progressive wear and tear of a bicuspid or other abnormal valve since birth
- Infection – from rheumatic fever as a child or young adult, or bacterial endocarditis
- Connective Tissue Disease – such as Marfan syndrome that causes the aortic root (the part attached to the ventricle) to enlarge so that it no longer closes properly
Common symptoms may include shortness of breath, dizziness, irregular heartbeat, and chest pain or palpitations with exertion.