Aortic Valve Regurgitation

Aortic valves keep your blood flowing forward out from the chambers of your heart into the rest of your body. The aortic valve has three leaflets or doors that open and close to release blood from the left ventricle or main pumping chamber of the heart into the rest of your body.

What is Aortic Valve Regurgitation?

Aortic Valve Regurgitation
Aortic valve regurgitation occurs when the leaflets that make up the valve that allows blood to flow forward out of the heart do not close all the way and some blood leaks backwards, rather than flowing all in one direction.credit: Scott Weldon

Aortic valve regurgitation occurs when the valve’s leaflets that allows blood to flow forward out of the heart do not close all the way and blood leaks backwards, rather than flowing all in a forward direction.

Aortic valve regurgitation typically occurs when one of the leaflets or doors of the valve prolapse or become restricted. Additionally, the annulus or ring upon which the valve sits can enlarge or dilate causing the leaflets not to come together properly with subsequent regurgitation. Congenital defects that you may be born with or genetic weaknesses of the heart valve tissues, weakness of the heart valve or aortic tissues, or diseases such as rheumatic fever or other inflammatory processes can also cause aortic valve leakage. Depending on the severity, these valves may be repaired or in other cases, they must be replaced.

When the aortic valve leaks, excess blood remains in the lower chamber or left ventricle of the heart. The heart has to compensate in order to provide enough oxygenated blood to your body. This extra work can cause the heart’s chambers to enlarge (hypertrophy) and make the walls of the heart thicken. This can lead to heart failure and other serious or even life-threatening problems.

Aortic Valve Surgery

At Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas we specialize in minimally invasive heart valve surgery to repair aortic valve regurgitation. We attract patients from Houston and from all over the United States and globally.

During traditional open aortic valve surgery, surgeons will usually make a large incision on your chest and through the breastbone. During minimally invasive, “keyhole” or port access valve surgery, our surgeons will make five to six centimeter (two-inch) incisions between your ribs, not through the sternum. The “keyhole” incisions are far less traumatic.

During aortic valve surgery, our surgeons will repair your aortic valve, or remove the unhealthy valve and replace it with either a biologic valve or a mechanical valve. During most heart surgeries, including minimally invasive heart valve surgery, it is necessary to put you on heart and lung bypass. During heat and lung bypass, the bypass machine will take over circulating blood throughout your body. Your heart will begin beating again once the valve repair or replacement procedure is complete and blood begins to circulate through your heart.

Outlook after Aortic Valve Surgery

Your stay at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center will typically be three to five days after you have your aortic valve surgery. As soon as the first day after surgery, you may be ready to walk with a nurse in your hospital room as well as around the hospital floor. Once you are discharged, you will be encouraged to continue walking as you begin to resume normal activities.

It will take approximately two-three weeks to recover from your aortic valve surgery, but additional healing and recovery continues for about two months. During this time you will regain your strength. Driving can resume when you are not requiring pain medication. After three weeks, essentially any activity can be performed. You can plan to return to work in about two to four weeks after surgery.

Your Baylor College of Medicine team may advise you to participate in an exercise program which will speed up your recovery. Your team will schedule your follow-up visits to our clinic with you before you leave Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center.