Key Points about Aortic Valve Insufficiency 

  • Some people are born with aortic valve insufficiency, while others develop the condition over time.
  • If not properly treated, aortic valve insufficiency may lead to other serious heart conditions, including congestive heart failure or arrhythmia.
  • Diagnosis of this condition typically involves a physical exam and imaging tests.
  • Treatment for this condition may include medication management, lifestyle changes and/or surgery to repair or replace the aortic valve.
Common related conditions
Heart (Cardiovascular) Disease

Overview

In people with aortic valve insufficiency, the workload of the left ventricle, or chamber, of the heart increases. Over time, this can lead to congestive heart failure (CHF) or abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmias).

Aortic valve insufficiency causes

Aortic valve insufficiency occurs when the aortic valve (major vessel that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body) is leaky or insufficient. Due to this, some blood can flow back into the left ventricle (heart chamber), instead of flowing out into the body.

Aortic valve insufficiency risk factors

Some people with aortic valve insufficiency are born with the condition, which is known as congenital. In other cases, aortic valve insufficiency can develop later in life. Factors that can increase your risk for developing this condition include:

  • Congenital heart conditions
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • History of certain infections
  • History of rheumatic fever

Aortic valve insufficiency symptoms

Signs and symptoms of aortic valve insufficiency can include:

  • Chest pain (angina)
  • Fatigue
  • Heart palpitations, or fluttering
  • Heavy, rapid breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling of your legs or feet

Aortic valve insufficiency diagnosis

Your cardiologist may use one or more of the following diagnostic tests to make your diagnosis of aortic valve insufficiency:

  • Cardiac catheterization. During this test, your cardiologist checks the pressure and flow of blood through your heart chambers.
  • Complete physical exam. Your doctor will perform a comprehensive physical exam, including asking about your personal health history.
  • Other imaging tests. Your cardiologist may order imaging tests – such as a chest X-ray, electrocardiogram (EKG) and echocardiogram – to obtain detailed images of your heart and valves.

Aortic valve insufficiency treatments

Treatment for aortic valve insufficiency may include:

Aortic valve repair or replacement. During this procedure, your cardiothoracic surgeon removes your damaged aortic valve and replaces it with another valve that is made of either pig, cow or human tissue or from surgical-grade plastic or metal (mechanical). Valves made of tissue may only last about a decade, while mechanical valves are made to last the rest of your life. 

Medication management. Your cardiologist may recommend one or more medications that can help control your symptoms related to this condition. You may also need to make certain lifestyle modifications, such as eating a heart-healthy diet, while you are on medications to control aortic valve insufficiency.

When to seek care

If you experience any of these symptoms, start by voicing your concerns and symptoms to your primary care provider. From there, your doctor may suggest seeing a cardiologist for more specialized treatment.