Timing of operation in a patient with severe aortic regurgitation is a difficult and controversial decision, especially when the patient is asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic. A rational decision can be made when the pathophysiologic features of aortic regurgitation and the natural history of medically treated patients are understood and the benefits and risks associated with aortic valve replacement are known. Proper interpretation of the literature involving echocardiography and nuclear cardiology is essential, as is consideration of the constantly changing surgical techniques and results. Aortic valve replacement should be recommended for those patients with chronic aortic regurgitation who are severely symptomatic (New York Heart Association Functional Class III or IV), in order to ameliorate symptoms and increase longevity. In asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic patients, close continued serial follow-up is necessary in order to detect the onset of resting left ventricular dysfunction and to recommend the optimal timing for surgical intervention.
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