Bicuspid Aortic Valve

A bicuspid aortic valve is a birth defect of the heart that involves the aorta and aortic valve. The aorta is the main artery of the body. It sends oxygen rich blood to the circulatory system. The aortic valve controls the blood flow from the heart to the aorta. The normal aortic valve has three flaps, or cusps, that open and close. A bicuspid valve has only two flaps, rather than three.

This defect develops during the first weeks of pregnancy. The cause of this defect is unclear, but it often runs in families and is more common in males than females.

There may be no symptoms in childhood, but by adulthood (often middle age or older) the valve can become stenotic (narrowed), making it harder for blood to pass through it, or regurgitant (allowing blood to leak backward through it). Treatment depends on how well the valve functions.

Your child may have symptoms that include:

  • Tiring easily
  • Difficulty breathing
  • An irregular or too rapid heartbeat
  • Chest pain
  • Fainting
  • Pale skin

Tests used to discover a bicuspid aortic valve include MRI or echocardiogram. Other tests may include X-rays or EKG.  If you child has other heart problems, their diagnosis may lead to discovery of the bicuspid aortic valve.

Treatment may include surgery or heart catheterization.

People with bicuspid aortic valve, before and after treatment, are at risk for getting an infection within the aorta or the heart valves (endocarditis). To help prevent this, they'll need to take antibiotics before certain dental and surgical procedures. 

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