Annuloaortic ectasia is a dilatation or an enlargement of the ascending aorta, the aortic annulus and/or a loss of function of the aorta.
The ascending aorta is the top section of the aorta, which is the largest artery pumping blood from the heart to other parts of the body, except the lungs, which have a separate blood supply. The aortic annulus is a fibrous ring of the heart at the aortic orifice or opening that circles to the front and to the right of the atrioventricular or upper chambers of the heart. From there, it is separated by the mitral valve (also known as the bicuspid valve or left atrioventricular valve), which is a valve in the heart that lies between the left atrium and the left ventricle.
What is the difference between a healthy heart and a heart with annuloaortic ectasia?
In a healthy heart, the valves in the upper chambers (atria) and lower chambers (ventricles) open and close depending upon the difference in pressure on each side of the heart. The valves also open and close to prevent the backward flow of blood. The healthy heart receives oxygenated blood from the left atrium via the mitral valve, and pumps it into the aorta via the aortic valve.
A heart with Annuloaortic ectasia shows degeneration or changes in appearance and/or loss of function of the aorta that can lead to a number of aortic diseases such as leaking of blood through the aortic valve which is called aortic insufficiency or aortic regurgitation. This causes the blood to flow back to the heart in the wrong direction, from the aorta into the left ventricle, causing it to become overfilled. This puts pressure on the walls of the heart, causing the heart muscle to increase in thickness (hypertrophy), and can cause permanent damage. Aortic stenosis, in which the valve does not open fully and thereby obstructs blood flow out from the heart, can also occur.