Aortic Regurgitation Symptoms & Treatments | MedStar Health

A condition that allows blood to leak back into the heart

Aortic regurgitation, also known as aortic insufficiency, is a heart valve disease that occurs when the heart’s aortic valve doesn’t close tightly. Blood leaks from the aorta (the largest blood vessel) back into the left ventricle (the heart’s main pumping chamber). This can weaken the left ventricle and prevent your heart from efficiently pumping blood.

Aortic regurgitation can lead to irregular heartbeat, known as arrhythmia, heart failure, or infections such as endocarditis.

Our team in the Structural Heart and Valvular Disease Program are experienced in treating aortic insufficiency with medication and surgery, including minimally invasive techniques.


Aortic regurgitation usually develops gradually, and you may not feel symptoms for years. However, as it worsens, you may experience:

  • Chest pain that increases with exercise and goes away with rest
  • Fainting, also known as syncope
  • Fatigue
  • Heart murmur
  • Palpitations, or the sensation that the heartbeat is skipping, slowing down, or racing 
  • Shortness of breath


You can be born with aortic regurgitation, or it can develop later in life. Causes can include:


Diagnosing a potential heart or vascular condition is the first step to developing a treatment plan. Our specialists may recommend one or more diagnostic and imaging procedures.

Angiogram (Angiography)

An angiogram is a special X-ray taken as a special dye is injected through a thin, flexible tube called a catheter to detect blockages or aneurysms in blood vessels.

Cardiac Catheterization

Cardiac catheterization is a minimally invasive way to diagnose and treat a variety of heart and vascular conditions by guiding thin, flexible tubes called catheters through blood vessels to problem areas.

Chest X-ray

Chest X-rays use a small dose of radiation to create pictures of the structures inside the chest, including the lungs, heart, and chest wall.

Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan

The cardiac computed tomography scan, or cardiac CT, uses X-rays to create three-dimensional images of your heart and blood vessels.


An echocardiogram uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of your heart.

Electrocardiogram (ECG)

An electrocardiogram, also known as an ECG, measures the heart’s electrical activity.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Magnetic resonance imaging, better known as cardiac MRI, is a combination of radio waves, magnets, and computer technology to create images of your heart and blood vessels.

Stress Tests

Stress tests are used to assess how your heart works during physical activity. There are several types of stress tests, including treadmill or bike stress tests, nuclear stress tests, stress echocardiograms, and chemically induced stress tests.

Transesophageal Echocardiogram (TEE)

Transesophageal echocardiogram allows us to take very detailed images of your heart structure from a probe in your esophagus.


If your symptoms are mild, your doctor may recommend monitoring your condition or taking medications to treat the symptoms. In severe cases or as time goes by, you may need surgery to repair or replace the aortic valve.

Aortic Valve Repair and Replacement

Aortic valve repair and replacement procedures include minimally invasive and traditional surgery as well as several types of replacement material.

Balloon Aortic Valvuloplasty

Aortic valvuloplasty is a minimally invasive procedure to open the aortic valve inside your heart.

Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR)

Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) is a minimally invasive option to replace a narrowed aortic valve that fails to open properly and blocks the flow of blood.

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