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.