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Bicuspid aortic valve

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Bicuspid aortic valve
Bicuspid aortic valve

Alternative Names    Return to top

Bicommissural aortic valve

Definition    Return to top

A bicuspid aortic valve is an aortic valve that only has two leaflets, instead of three.

The aortic valve regulates blood flow from the heart into the aorta, the major blood vessel that brings blood to the body.

Causes    Return to top

The aortic valve allows oxygen-rich blood to flow from the heart to the aorta. It prevents the blood from flowing back from the aorta into the heart when the pumping chamber relaxes.

Bicuspid aortic valve is present at birth (congenital). An abnormal aortic valve develops during the early weeks of pregnancy, when the baby's heart develops. The cause of this problem is unclear, but it is the most common congenital heart disease. It often runs in families.

The bicuspid aortic valve allows leakage of blood back into the pumping chamber (aortic regurgitation). The aortic valve may also become stiff and not open up as well (aortic stenosis). The aorta may become enlarged with this condition.

This condition is more common among males than females.

A bicuspid aortic valve often exists in babies with coarctation of the aorta and other diseases in which there is a blockage to the left side of the heart.

Symptoms    Return to top

Most of the time, bicuspid aortic valve is not diagnosed in infants or children because it causes no symptoms. However, the abnormal valve can leak or become narrow.

Symptoms of such complications may include:

If a baby has other congenital heart problems, they may cause symptoms that will lead to the discovery of a bicuspid aortic valve.

Exams and Tests    Return to top

Signs of a bicuspid aortic valve may include:

Tests that may show a bicuspid aortic valve include:

If the health care provider suspects complications or additional heart defects, other tests may include:

Treatment    Return to top

The infant may need surgery to repair a leaky or narrowed valve, if complications are severe.

A narrowed valve can also be opened through cardiac catheterization. A fine tube (catheter) is directed to the heart and into the narrow opening of the aortic valve. A balloon attached to the end of the tube is inflated, to make the opening of the valve larger.

Critically ill babies with a severely narrowed valve may need medications. These medications improve the baby's condition so that either surgery or a balloon procedure is possible.

Medications may include:

High levels of LDL cholesterol ("bad" cholesterol) can build up on the inside of the abnormal valve and cause narrowing of the valve. Children with a bicuspid aortic valve should eat a low-cholesterol diet.

Children with a bicuspid aortic valve are more likely to develop an infection inside the heart (endocarditis). Therefore, they must take antibiotics before undergoing dental treatments. Some children may not be able to exercise or participate in strenuous activities because of the valve.

Outlook (Prognosis)    Return to top

How well the baby does depends on whether complications of bicuspid aortic valve are present, and how severe they are.

The presence of other physical problems at birth also can affect how well a baby does.

Most babies with this condition have no symptoms, and the problem is not diagnosed until they are adults. Some people never find out that they have this problem.

Possible Complications    Return to top

Complications of bicuspid aortic valve include:

When to Contact a Medical Professional    Return to top

Call your health care provider if your baby:

Prevention    Return to top

Bicuspid aortic valves run in families. If you know of this condition in your family, speak to your health care provider before becoming pregnant. There is no known way to prevent the condition.

References    Return to top

Otto CM, Bonow RO. Valvular Heart Disease. In: Braunwald E, Zipes DP, Libby P, Bonow R. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 62.

Park MK. Park: Pediatric Cardiology for Practitioners. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Elsevier; 2008.

Update Date: 4/30/2008

Updated by: Mark A Fogel, MD, FACC, FAAP, Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Radiology, Director of Cardiac MR, The Children's Hospital of PhiladelphiaDivision of Cardiology, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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