The aortic valve is found between the left ventricle and the aorta. It has three leaflets that function like a one-way door, allowing blood to flow forward into the aorta, but not backward into the left ventricle.
Aortic valve disease occurs when the valve does not open or close properly. This disease sometimes may be a condition present at birth (congenital heart disease) or it may result from other causes.
Types of aortic valve disease include: aortic stenosis, a condition where the aortic valve opening is narrowed, and aortic regurgitation, a condition caused by the aortic valve not closing properly, resulting in the backflow of blood into the left ventricle.
When valves become stenotic (stiff), the heart muscle must work harder to pump the blood through the valve. Some reasons why heart valves become stenotic include: advanced age, which leads to valve leaflet calcification (where the leaflet becomes stiff), a congenitally abnormal valve with two leaflets instead of three (bicuspid valve), and infection (such as rheumatic fever or staphylococcus infections).
If one or more valves become insufficient (leaky), blood leaks backwards, which means that blood flow moves in the reverse direction. Based on your symptoms and overall condition of your heart, your doctor may decide that the diseased valve(s) needs to be surgically repaired or replaced.