Aortic Insufficiency

Heart valves help ensure that blood only flows in one direction through the heart. Aortic insufficiency is a heart valve disease in which the aortic valve does not close tightly, allowing a small amount of blood to flow in the wrong direction from the aorta (the largest blood vessel) into the left ventricle (a chamber of the heart). This makes the heart have to work harder to force out enough blood. If this continues over time, the heart becomes less able to supply enough blood to the body. Aortic insufficiency is most common in men between the ages of 30 and 60. In the past, rheumatic fever was the main cause of aortic insufficiency, but the use of antibiotics to treat infections has made rheumatic fever less common. Today, aortic insufficiency usually is caused by conditions such as high blood pressure, endocarditis (inflammation of the inner layer of the heart), syphilis, lupus, congenital (present at birth) heart valve defects, and other conditions.

Symptoms can include fatigue, fainting, shortness of breath, palpitations (sensation of the heart beating), and swelling of the feet, legs, or abdomen. However, the condition often causes no symptoms for many years, and symptoms may come on slowly or suddenly. Depending on the symptoms and severity, treatments may include blood pressure medication, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACEinhibitors (drugs that helps relax blood vessels), limits on activity, or aortic valve replacement surgery.


With the first and largest comprehensive heart valve program in the state, UAB Medicine provides continuing care for patients who have or are at risk for valve disease. Our team of surgeons and cardiologists are among the nation’s most highly regarded physicians, and they provide a multidisciplinary approach to the diagnosis and treatment of valve disease. From aortic valve stenosis to mitral valve regurgitation, and from traditional open-heart surgery to the latest in minimally invasive procedures and robotic-assisted valve repair surgery, UAB patients benefit from our expertise in treating patients with valve disease.

The UAB Comprehensive Valve Program has built an impressive list of accomplishments in recent years. Our cardiologists and heart surgeons performed the first transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) in Alabama; to date UAB has performed more TAVRs than any other hospital in the state. As an added service, patients who have been told by non-UAB doctors that they need valve surgery can speak to a UAB valve surgeon for a second opinion.

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Related Conditions

Listed below are some conditions that may be related to or share some similarities with the condition addressed on this page.


UAB is an active participant in research and clinical trials for the diagnosis and treatment of aortic insufficiency. We encourage you to speak to your physician about research and clinical trial options and browse the link below for more information.

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