The gross surgical pathologic features of the aortic valve were reviewed in 225 patients who had had clinically pure aortic insufficiency and aortic valve replacement at our institution during the years 1965, 1970, 1975, and 1980. The four most common causes of aortic regurgitation were postinflammatory disease (46%), aortic root dilatation (21%), incomplete closure of a congenitally bicuspid aortic valve (20%), and infective endocarditis (9%). Other causes of aortic incompetence in our study included ventricular septal defects (2%) and quadricuspid aortic valves (1%); the cause was indeterminate in 1%. The mean age of patients at valve replacement was approximately 50 years for all etiologic factors except a ventricular septal defect. All forms of aortic insufficiency were much more common in male than in female patients, except the postinflammatory and indeterminate types, which occurred approximately equally in both sexes. Moreover, the incidences of postinflammatory disease and aortic root dilatation changed appreciably with time. Before 1980, their incidences were 51% and 17%, respectively, but during 1980, they were 29% and 37%, respectively. Accordingly, aortic root dilatation is now the most common cause of pure aortic regurgitation in our surgical population. The decrease in the incidence of postinflammatory disease may be a result of the decreasing incidence of acute rheumatic fever reported in western countries.