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Aortic regurgitation (also referred to as aortic insufficiency) is the leaking of blood through the aortic valve back into the left ventricle; contrary to the normal direction of blood movement. This partially counteracts the heart’s normal pumping function, and the work done by the heart is no longer adequate to deliver blood to all parts of the body. The pulse weakens; this is known as a collapsing pulse. The condition may culminate in heart failure when the output of oxygenated blood becomes insufficient to meet the whole body’s needs.
In many cases, aortic regurgitation can cause permanent damage to, and disfigurement of, the heart. Since more work is required to pump blood properly, the muscle wall of the left ventricle will thicken. Meanwhile, to accommodate the “regurgitated” blood, the ventricle itself will expand, or dilate. These two adaptations are often used by doctors to identify and diagnose aortic regurgitation.
The leakage of blood back into the left ventricle is usually caused by damage to either the aortic valve or the aortic root. Surgical intervention is almost always required to fix or replace the damaged part.