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Aortic Regurgitation

What is it?
The heart has a series of valves that encourage the blood to flow in the correct
direction when it contracts. The main outlet valve is called the Aortic
valve. It opens to allow the blood to be expelled from the pumping chamber
into the main blood vessel the Aorta and onto the vital organs and after the
heart contracts it closes to prevent blood leaking back into the heart chamber.
Regurgitation or leaking, occurs when the valve fails to close adequately.
The leakage means that the heart has to expel more blood each time it beats
leading to over expansion and increased workload.

What causes it?
Valve leakage can occur when the valve is abnormal from birth when it has
only two opening components instead of three, or be damaged by rheumatic
fever sustained in earlier life. It can also leak because the main blood vessel
coming out of the heart, the aorta is dilated or in association with rarer general
medical conditions.

What are the risks?
Significant regurgitation of the valve leads to an increased load on the heart
that will eventually make it fail. At a late stage this can manifest with reduced
energy levels or shortness of breath. Mild regurgitation can be followed by
observation. Valves that function abnormally are predisposed to infection. It
is advised that patients notify their dentists that they have a murmur and receive
appropriate antibiotics prior to dental work.

How do you treat it?
If that leak is severe open heart surgery is the best treatment to replace the
leaking valve and replace it with a new "artificial" prosthetic valve. There are
two types of valve, mechanical or tissue. Mechanical valves are made from
Carbon pyrolite and have the advantage of lasting for many years but require
life long blood thinning with Warfarin tablets. Tissue valves have the advantage
of often not needing blood thinners but tend to not last as long.

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