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.
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 may not be completely effective at stopping blood from leaking back into the heart. This is called aortic regurgitation. The aortic valve may also become stiff and not open up as well, causing the heart to have to pump harder than usual to get blood past the valve (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 blood flow on the left side of the heart.
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.
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:
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:
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.
See also: Pediatric heart surgery
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.
Complications of bicuspid aortic valve include:
Call your health care provider if your baby:
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.
Bicommissural aortic valve