Aortic regurgitation is also called aortic insufficiency. It happens when
your aortic valve can’t close all the way. The valve leaks, resulting
in reduced blood flow. Your heart has to work harder to make up for the
reduced blood flow, and over time it will weaken. Because of this, the
amount of blood that flows from the heart to the rest of the body is reduced.
If you don’t have any symptoms or if your symptoms are mild, your
doctor may monitor your condition. Your doctor may also place you on medications
to help manage your symptoms, as well as restrict your level of activity.
Surgery to either repair or replace your aortic valve can correct the problem.
For certain patients, aortic valve repair may be possible. During this
surgery, your cardiac surgeon repairs the aortic valve’s flaps by
folding or reinforcing them so they close properly. Sometimes your aortic
valve’s leaflets can also have tears or holes. Your surgeon can
repair these tears or holes by patching them with tissue patches in order
to solve the problem.
Not all valves can be repaired. When a valve is badly damaged, valve repair
is not an option, so your doctor may consider a valve replacement. In
valve replacement, your damaged valve is removed and replaced with an
artificial valve called a prosthetic valve. There are three types of prosthetic
valves: bioprostheses (animal tissue valve), mechanical valves (made from
mechanical parts) and homografts (donated from a cadaver).
The Ross Procedure is another option for aortic valve replacement. During
this procedure, your aortic valve is replaced with your own pulmonary
valve. Your pulmonary valve is then replaced with a valve taken from a
cadaver. Your pulmonary valve is a great substitute for your aortic valve
because it is the same in form, size and function. And because the valve
is your own tissue, the risk of infection, blood clots and stroke are low.
And for patients who need aortic valve replacement, but cannot have open
heart surgery, Hoag is the first and only center in Orange County to offer
transcatheter aortic valve replacement. During this procedure, instead
of opening up your chest, your doctors replace your aortic valve through
a catheter. On the tip of this catheter is an artificial aortic valve
that is collapsed, as well as a balloon that can be inflated and deflated.
The catheter is inserted into an artery in your upper thigh, and your
doctor threads it up to your heart. Your doctor then places the catheter
within your own aortic valve. Next your doctor inflates the balloon on
the catheter, which opens the artificial valve so it sits in place. He
then deflates the balloon and removes it and the catheter from your body.
This artificial valve starts working right away. And because this is a
minimally invasive way to replace your aortic valve, it offers the following
benefits: shorter recovery times, shorter hospital stays, less pain after
surgery, and a smaller scar.