Aortic insufficiency is a potentially severe condition that affects the heart’s ability to pump blood. There are many possible causes for this condition.
Aortic insufficiency is a form of heart valve disease where the aortic valve in the heart is leaky and does not close tightly enough.
A person’s aortic valve controls blood flow from the heart to the body. It has flaps that open to allow blood to leave the heart. These valves close when the heart fills. If the flaps do not close tightly enough, the valve leaks, allowing blood to flow backward during heartbeats.
There are several causes of aortic insufficiency, including heart abnormalities, aging, and injury.
People with aortic insufficiency may initially have no symptoms. Over time, symptoms can develop as the condition worsens. A person’s heart must work increasingly hard to compensate for the backward heart blood flow. This can eventually lead to heart damage and failure.
Doctors may be able to treat mild aortic insufficiency with medications. However, people with progressing aortic insufficiency generally need aortic valve replacement surgery.
This article discusses aortic insufficiency causes, risk factors, and prevention. It also outlines when a person needs to consult a doctor.
People can develop aortic insufficiency because of conditions that damage their aorta or heart tissues.
A person’s aortic valve typically has three small parts or leaflets. If they have a bicuspid aortic valve (BAV) birth abnormality, they have two leaflets instead of three.
In some cases, a person may have a unicuspid or quadricuspid aortic valve with one or four leaflets. Having a BAV abnormality or other conditions that cause an aortic valve with an atypical number of leaflets may lead to complications, including aortic insufficiency.
Other causes of severe aortic insufficiency
- Rheumatic heart disease (RHD): RHD is a common cause of aortic insufficiency in some parts of the world. It is a complication of rheumatic fever.
- Narrowing of the aortic valve: Calcific aortic stenosis is a narrowing of the aortic valve. This is due to a buildup of calcium deposits. Sometimes, this calcium can prevent the valve from closing properly, resulting in aortic regurgitation.
- Aortic aneurysm: Aortic aneurysm, which is dilation of the aorta due to high blood pressure, smoking, or genetic conditions,
can lead toprogressing aortic insufficiency.
- Infective endocarditis: Infective endocarditis is an infection of a person’s inner heart lining and valves that
can lead toaortic insufficiency.
- Untreated syphilis: Untreated syphilis can progress over time to advanced syphilis. In some cases, this
can causeheart problems, including aortic insufficiency.
- Injury: In some cases of blunt force trauma, people may experience aortic valve injury, which can cause aortic insufficiency.
Other possible causes of aortic insufficiency include:
- some medications, including dopamine agonists such as bromocriptine
- malfunctions in a person’s replacement prosthetic aortic valve
- genetic conditions that affect a person’s connective tissues, such as Marfan’s syndrome
- inflammatory conditions such as:
- aortic aneurysms
- Whipple disease
- Turner syndrome
Other common risk factors for aortic insufficiency include:
People cannot prevent aortic insufficiency resulting from birth-related heart abnormalities.
Doctors may recommend surgery to repair or replace a person’s aortic valve. However, repair is typically only an option if the damage to the valve is minimal.
People without a congenital heart abnormality can take the following steps to reduce their risk of developing aortic insufficiency:
- taking antibiotics when they have strep throat to prevent rheumatic fever and avoid complications
- managing blood pressure
- managing their blood sugar
- getting regular cholesterol level checks
- reducing their risk of endocarditis by:
- practicing appropriate dental hygiene
- getting regular dental checks
- taking any prescription antibiotics before dental or other medical procedures
People with mild aortic insufficiency may have few or no symptoms. They
People with severe aortic insufficiency may have symptoms such as:
- chest pains or chest tightness, particularly during or after physical activities
- difficulty breathing when lying down
- heart murmurs
- heart palpitations
- irregular heartbeats
- shortness of breath
- swollen ankles or feet
- weakness, or feeling tired or weak during periods of increased activity
If a person experiences these symptoms or their symptoms do not improve with treatment, they need to seek immediate medication attention.
Aortic insufficiency is when a person’s aortic heart valve leaks blood backward. It can have many causes.
Some people are born with birth abnormalities that can cause the condition. Individuals may also develop aortic insufficiency due to aging, infections, or other conditions.
If the condition worsens, people may need an aortic valve replacement.