Bicuspid Aortic Valve
What is a bicuspid aortic valve?
The left ventricle is the lower pumping chamber of the heart. The aorta is the large blood vessel that takes oxygen-rich blood out to the body. The aortic valve allows the blood to flow from the ventricle into the aorta. Most often, this valve has three leaflets. A bicuspid aortic valve only has two leaflets. It is not known why some children are born with only two leaflets. This does run in families.
Why does this matter?
The aortic valve’s job is to fully open and close to allow blood out to the body. When the valve has only two leaflets, it may not open and close as it should. When the valve does not open all the way, it is called stenosis, or narrowing. When the valve does not close all the way, it is called insufficiency, or leakage.
An echocardiogram is a heart ultrasound. It can find out if the valve is opening and closing as it should. Sometimes, with a bicuspid aortic valve, the aorta can dilate (increase in size). The test will also look at the aorta to find out if it has increased in size. Your child will have echocardiograms to watch for these problems. They will be every 6 months, yearly, or every few years. Your child’s cardiologist will decide how often your child needs one.
What does it mean if my child has a bicuspid aortic valve?
Most children with a bicuspid valve do not have any problems during their childhood. Your child does not need antibiotics before a visit with the dentist. For most children, activity is not restricted. Children are asked to avoid isometric exercises. This is when you hold a muscle in a fixed position, such as weight lifting in which there are not light repetitions. Your cardiologist can explain more about this.
At some point, most often later in life, the valve may need to be fixed. This will depend on how narrow the open valve is or how much the valve leaks. There are a number of options to fix the valve. You can discuss this further with your child’s doctor.
Who Do I Call With Questions?
Your child’s doctor, nurse or our clinic staff can answer any questions. Pediatric Cardiology
Garson, A., Bricker, J.T., Fisher, D. J., Neish, S. R. (1998). The Science and Practice of Pediatric Cardiology, 2nd ed.
Keane, M.G., Sutton, M. (2007). Causes and clinical course of unoperated congenital aortic stenosis. UpToDate.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 05/18/2012
Copyright © 05/18/2012 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#6866
Print Health Fact For You