Bicuspid Aortic Valve

What is Bicuspid Aortic Valve?

A bicuspid aortic valve (BAV) is an aortic valve that has only two leaflets instead of three. These leaflets open and close to regulate blood flow from the heart into the aorta, and prevent blood from flowing back into the heart.

BAV is the most prevalent congenital heart defect, but can go undetected for years – even into adulthood. It is characterized by a bicuspid aortic valve murmur, which is the distinctive sound made by the blood as it moves through the valve.

Bicuspid Aortic Valve Symptoms

A bicuspid aortic valve can function for years without showing any symptoms. Symptoms will begin to show later in life as the valve ages. Below is a list of bicuspid aortic valve symptoms.

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Fatigue

Bicuspid Aortic Valve Causes

Bicuspid aortic valve occurs at birth when the valve does not develop properly. It tends to run in families and studies suggest it’s caused by a connective tissue disorder.

Bicuspid Aortic Valve Complications and Side Effects

Bicuspid aortic valve should be monitored closely. Its complications and side effects can be severe, in some instances leading to sudden death. Below is a list of some common bicuspid aortic valve complications and side effects:

  • Heart failure
  • Narrowed aortic valve (aortic valve stenosis)
  • Blood leaking back into the left ventricle of the heart (aortic valve regurgitation)
  • Enlarged aorta
  • Aortic dissection
  • Aortic aneurysm
  • Infection of the heart valves (endocarditis)
  • Abnormal heart rhythms

Bicuspid Aortic Valve Diagnosis and Prognosis

To provide a bicuspid aortic valve diagnosis, a doctor will do a physical exam of the patient, including listening to the heart for a murmur. The doctor will review the patient’s symptoms and take into account their family and medical history. Tests that may be used to help provide a bicuspid aortic valve diagnosis are listed below.

  • Echocardiography
  • Electrocardiogram
  • Cardiac CT or MRI
  • Chest X-ray
  • Transesophageal echocardiography

Bicuspid aortic valve prognosis is generally good. About one-third of patients with bicuspid aortic valve develop complications. These complications can be serious, so patients with bicuspid aortic valve should routinely be monitored by a heart specialist.

Bicuspid Aortic Valve Treatment

Options for bicuspid aortic valve treatment depend on each patient’s condition. In some instances, medications for high blood pressure or those that lower cholesterol can help. In others, a procedure is required to treat bicuspid aortic valve. Below are different procedures for bicuspid aortic valve treatment.

  • Bicuspid aortic valve replacement: In this bicuspid aortic valve surgery, the damaged valve is replaced with a mechanical valve or one made from biological tissue. Patients with mechanical valves will need to take blood thinners to prevent clots from forming. Those with valves made from biological tissue may need to have them replaced over time, as these valves will degenerate.
  • Valvuloplasty: A catheter with a balloon on the tip is inserted into an artery in the groin and guided to the aorta. Once there, the balloon is inflated and expands the opening of the valve. Then the balloon and catheter are removed.
  • Aortic root surgery: In this procedure, the enlarged section of the aorta is removed and a graft, or synthetic tube, is sewn into place. The aortic valve can also be repaired or replaced at this time.

Learn More about Bicuspid Aortic Valves from Baptist Health

Successfully treating bicuspid aortic valves is just one example of how the medical professionals at Baptist Health are leading the way in total heart care. Talk to your heart care provider to learn more.

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