Aortic regurgitation

Leaky aortic valve

One of two main types of aortic valve disease, where the valve allows blood to flow backwards into your heart

What is aortic regurgitation?

The aortic valve controls the flow of oxygenated blood from the left ventricle of the heart into the aorta, the main artery carrying blood around the body. If the valve doesn't close tightly it can become leaky (this can develop with age or as a congenital issue from birth), which allows blood that has been pumped out to flow back into the heart. This is known as aortic regurgitation.

As well as the main problem of regurgitation itself, the leakage can often lead to blood not being pumped around the rest of your body as efficiently as it should be. This can cause ongoing fatigue and breathlessness as a result.

Need to know

  • What are the symptoms of aortic regurgitation? icon plus

    In most cases, aortic regurgitation is a condition that develops gradually with age, with your heart still able to compensate for any problems that occur. However if the condition worsens, symptoms to be aware of that you may experience include:

    • Fatigue and general weakness when undertaking higher activity levels than normal
    • Breathlessness / shortness of breath when exercising or lying down
    • Chest pain or tightness that may increase when exercising
    • Heart murmur 
    • Irregular pulse
    • Feeling lightheaded or fainting
    • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • How is aortic regurgitation diagnosed? icon plus

    If you have been displaying any of the symptoms of aortic regurgitation, your consultant can diagnose the condition by using a stethoscope to listen to your heart. This is because a heart murmur is generated whenever the blood flows back into your heart. 

    If this is the case, your consultant will likely choose to continue to monitor your condition to check it doesn’t worsen. Additional tests that can be carried out to confirm the diagnosis include: 

  • Treating aortic regurgitation icon plus

    Treatment for aortic regurgitation very much depends on the severity of your symptoms. If your symptoms are mild, your cardiologist may simply recommend healthy lifestyle changes and certain medications to minimise any further risk.

    If your symptoms have become severe, it is likely you may need surgery such as an aortic valve repair or TAVI (transcatheter aortic valve replacement) to correct your leaky valve.

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This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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