Aortic Valve Regurgitation

1 What is Aortic Valve Regurgitation?

Aortic valve regurgitation, also called aortic insufficiency or aortic regurgitation, is a condition characterized by damage to aortic valve resulting in backflow of blood from the blood vessel to the ventricle. This condition may remain asymptomatic till serious condition like heart failure develops. It is more commonly seen in men when compared to women.

The symptoms usually start gradually over a period of time. In some rare cases, the symptoms may develop suddenly. Valve damage is the most common cause of aortic valve regurgitation. Mild symptoms may not need any specific treatment.

Medications and surgery to replace the heart valve are the methods used to treat the condition.

2 Symptoms

Symptoms of Aortic valve regurgitation develop gradually after several years. A person may remain asymptomatic for years, during which the heart tries to compensate for the backup of blood. 

The most common symptoms include:

3 Causes

Aortic valve regurgitation is caused by valve damage. Valves of the heart may be damaged by:

  • Congenital heart disease – some children are born with aortic valves containing two flaps instead of three. This condition is called as bicuspid aortic valve. Presence of bicuspid valve increases the susceptibility of developing aortic valve regurgitation.
  • Endocarditis – endocarditis refers to the infection in the heart, including heart valves. Infection damages the heart valves leading to regurgitation.
  • Rheumatic fever – it is a common illness during childhood caused by strep infection. Rheumatic fever also affects heart valves.
  • Medical conditions – certain genetic diseases like Marfan syndrome and connective tissue disease result in heart valve damage.
  • Trauma – intense trauma caused by chest injury may lead to tear in the wall of aorta. This ultimately result in regurgitation of blood.

Conditions like hypertension, aortic valve damage, congenital heart valve disease, and certain genetic diseases increases the chance of aortic valve regurgitation.

4 Making A Diagnosis

Making a diagnosis of Aortic valve regurgitation is done by several tests.

Review of medical history, family history, and physical examination provide important clues about the risks of developing this condition. ECG plots the electric impulses indicating the heart rhythm. Exercise test is used to assess the response of heart to exertion.

Echocardiogram and chest X-ray are also used in the diagnosis of Aortic valve regurgitation. Cardiac catheterization, a procedure in which a dye is injected into the blood vessel to plot leakages in blood vessel, is also prescribed. A more detailed picture of the heart and aorta is obtained by cardiac MRI.

5 Treatment

Treatment of aortic valve regurgitation is based on the severity of the condition. Mild regurgitation may not require any specific treatment, but it requires regular monitoring and evaluations to ensure that risk factors are under control. Surgical repair and surgical replacement are the methods for treating regurgitation. Replacement or repair prevents weakening of the heart muscles.

Valve repair – the dysfunctional valve of the heart is modified by valvuloplasty to prevent the backup of blood into the ventricle.

Balloon valvuloplasty is a procedure in which a thin catheter with a balloon at the tip is inserted into the blood vessel. It is then guided to the valve where the balloon is inflated. Inflated balloon widens the valve opening and allows the flow of blood without obstruction.

Balloon valvuloplasty is usually recommended for children, as there are chances of valve narrowing in adults.

Valve replacement – in this procedure the damaged valve is replaced with a tissue or mechanical valve to enable smooth flow of blood into the blood vessel. Metal valves are durable, but has a risk of developing clots.

After a mechanical valve replacement, warfarin, an anticoagulant, is recommended to prevent the formation of blood clots. Tissue valves are obtained from other human donors or animals like cows and pigs. In some cases, one’s own pulmonary valve is used in place of damaged valve.

6 Prevention

Regular checkups help prevent development of aortic valve regurgitation, and also to identify damages, if any. Treating strep throat prevents rheumatic fever, one of the major risk factor for aortic valve regurgitation. Keep blood pressure under control, as hypertension increases the risk of valve damage.

7 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

Several alternative and homeopathic remedies are used for Aortic valve regurgitation.

Digitalis, kalmia, lithium Carb, Naja, Rhus Tox, Spigelia, Spongia, Aconite, Adonis Vernalis, Amyl Nitrosum, Arsenic Album, Arsenic Iod, Aurum Mur, Baryta Carb, Cactus, Calcaria Carb, Cheledonium, Crotolus H, Gloninum, Kali Carb, Kali Iod, Lachesis, Lycopodium, Strophanthus Hispidus, Apis Mel, and Apocynum are used in homeopathy to control aortic regurgitation.

Fish oil with omega-3 fatty acids is considered to be good for controlling heart diseases. Coenzyme Q10 helps to maintain healthy blood vessels. It also supports optimal functioning of the muscles of heart

8 Lifestyle and Coping

Lifestyle modifications are necessary in order to cope with Aortic valve regurgitation.

Controlling blood pressure, having a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy body weight, regular exercise, and regular check-ups are the best self-management tips for controlling symptoms of aortic valve disease.

9 Risks and Complications

Aortic valve regurgitation increases the risk of endocarditis. Severe form of aortic valve regurgitation leads to heart failure.

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