• Clinical science

Aortic regurgitation (Aortic insufficiency)


Aortic regurgitation (AR) is a valvular heart disease characterized by incomplete closure of the aortic valve that leads to reflux of blood from the aorta into the left ventricle (LV) during diastole. Aortic regurgitation may be acute (occurring primarily after bacterial endocarditis or aortic dissection) or chronic (due to congenital bicuspid valve or rheumatic fever) and may be caused by valvular disease or an abnormality of the aorta. In most cases, acute AR leads to rapid deterioration of LV function with subsequent pulmonary edema and cardiac decompensation. Frequently, chronic AR may remain compensated for a long period of time, becoming symptomatic only when left heart failure develops. Auscultation reveals an S3 and a high-pitched, decrescendo early diastolic murmur. Another characteristic diagnostic finding is widened pulse pressure. Echocardiography is the most important diagnostic tool, both for confirming the diagnosis and determining the severity of disease. In asymptomatic patients, conservative treatment consists of symptom management and physical activity as tolerated. However, symptomatic patients or those with severely reduced LV function should undergo surgical aortic valve replacement.





Clinical features



Physical examination

Confirmatory tests

  • Transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE)
    • Indicated for suspected AR as well as to monitor confirmed AR to determine the staging and optimal timing of surgery
    • Findings
      • Abnormal aortic valve leaflets
      • Regurgitant AR jet on Doppler flow tracing
      • Increased LV size and volume
      • Dilated aorta
      • Fluttering of anterior mitral valve leaflet
  • Transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE): indicated if suboptimal or nondiagnostic TTE

Screening tests (optional)




  • Indication: asymptomatic patients and symptomatic patients who are not candidates for surgical treatment
  • Treatment of heart failure
  • Physical activity , but without excessive straining




  • Asymptomatic patients with normal EF: progression to symptoms or LV dysfunction at a rate of < 6% per year
  • Asymptomatic patients with decreased EF: progression to symptoms at a rate of > 25% per year
  • Symptomatic patients: mortality rate is > 10% per year


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last updated 11/16/2020
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