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Aortic valve insufficiency, also known as pediatric Aortic valve insufficiency and aortic regurgitation, is one of the many heart malformations and birth defects that may be associated with taking Zofran (ondansetron) while pregnant. As more studies on taking Zofran while pregnant emerge, additional information indicates that infants have a heightened risk of developing congenital heart defects.

What is Aortic Valve Insufficiency?

Aortic valve insufficiency occurs when blood from the left ventricle is pushed into the ascending aorta and then back again into the left ventricle. This happens when the aortic valve doesn’t completely close, leading to blood ejecting back into the heart. Aortic valve insufficiency can range from mild to severe and life-threatening.
Stethoscope listening to a baby's heart beat

Aortic Valve Insufficiency Symptoms

In most cases, infants and young children do not display an outward symptoms. However, as the child grows older, symptoms begin to develop, and can include:

  • Heart murmurs
  • Fainting
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue

Aortic Valve Insufficiency Diagnosis

A few tests or many tests are usually administered in order to diagnose aortic valve insufficiency. The most common procedures include:

  • Chest X-rays
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG), which records the heart’s electrical activity
  • Cardiac MRI, which shows the heart’s abnormalities
  • Echocardiogram, which produces images of the heart via ultrasound waves
  • Cardiac catheterization, a procedure in which a a thin tube inserted into the heart via a vein or artery in the vein or belly button.

Aortic Valve Insufficiency Treatment Options

Treatment for aortic valve insufficiency will depend upon the severity. For mild cases, no treatment may be needed at all. For severe cases, the may need surgery to replace the aortic valve, an artificial replacement valve, or the “Ross Procedure,” in which the patient’s pulmonary valve replaces the aortic valve. A donated organ then replaces the pulmonary valve.

Aortic Valve Insufficiency Prognosis

In most instances, children will go on live normal lives after successful treatment. However, they most likely will need to be monitored by a cardiologist for life. During childhood, up until 18 years of age, children will need to have regular medical checkups with a pediatric cardiologist, as well as continue with any prescribed medication.

During adulthood, the medical checkups should continue regularly as some adults with the disorder may be prone to problems in the future.

Aortic Valve Insufficiency Causes

There are numerous things that can cause aortic valve insufficiency, including:

Congenital Heart Diseases

In most instances, babies with congenital heart defects is one of the primary reasons that aortic valve insufficiency develops. Although it may not appear immediately, having heart defects puts the infant at risk for aortic valve insufficiency later on.

If pregnant women take certain medications, such as Zofran, there is a heightened risk that their baby may develop heart defects, especially if the medication is taken during the first trimester when the heart is forming. Unfortunately, Zofran is usually prescribed for nausea and vomiting during the first trimester as that is when morning sickness generally reaches its highest peak.

Rheumatic Fever

Rheumatic fever is associated with developing aortic valve insufficiency, but this more prevalent these days in underdeveloped countries as opposed to the United States.

Physical Injuries 

Physical injuries around the chest may lead to aortic valve insufficiency. A tear in the aorta can also cause the blood to flow backwards through the aortic valve.


Endocarditis, an infection of the endocardium (inner lining of the heart) has also been associated with aortic valve insufficiency. This occurs when endocarditis damages the aortic valve.

If You’ve Taken Zofran While Pregnant

Keep in mind that if you were prescribed Zofran while pregnant and your baby was born with heart defects or any other birth defect, you have the legal right to pursue damages against the responsible party. Zofran, made by GlaxoSmithKline, is only approved for use by cancer and surgery patients, yet doctors have been prescribing to pregnant women for off-label use for morning sickness. For additional information, consult with an experienced Zofran attorney who will explain your options to you.