What Is Bicuspid Aortic Valve?

Bicuspid aortic valve (BAV) is the most common congenital heart disorder, affecting approximately one to two percent of people. It is at least twice as likely to occur in men as in women. The cause of BAV is not completely clear, but experts believe it develops during the early stages of pregnancy. It can run in families with an estimated prevalence of 10 to 30 percent.

Your aortic valve helps controls the flow of blood from the heart through the aorta and out to the body. A normal aortic valve has three leaflets that open and close in sync with the heart’s pumping to keep blood moving in one direction.

Sometimes during a person’s fetal development, two of the three leaflets of the aortic valve fuse creating a bicuspid or two leaflet valve, instead of the normal tricuspid or three leaflet valve. This two leaflet valve can cause the valve to not function properly. Over time, it may strain the heart and could lead to serious health complications.

Many patients with BAV also have dilation of the aorta, which is the major blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body. BAV impacts both the aortic valve and the thoracic aorta.

Many people with BAV will need surgery in their lifetime, either for the aortic valve, the thoracic aorta or both. Surgery may be minimally invasive. With some patients, surgeons can repair a leaky valve, but other times, the aortic valve will need to be replaced.

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