The normal aortic valve has three leaflets that open and close to control the flow of blood into the aorta from the left ventricle of the heart as it beats. In contrast, a bicuspid aortic valve, or BAV, has only two leaflets. With this malformation, the valve doesn’t function perfectly, however, it may function adequately for years with no symptoms or obvious signs of a problem. Depending on the degree of malformation, blood flowing through the valve may make an abnormal sound, or a murmur. While some bicuspid aortic valves are silent, the detection of a murmur may be the first indication of bicuspid aortic valve disease.
Causes of Bicuspid Aortic Valve Disease
The actual cause of bicuspid aortic valve disease is not certain, but the two-leaflet valve develops in the early stages of pregnancy and the defect is present at birth. Approximately two percent of the population has bicuspid aortic valve disease, which is two times more common in males than in females. Approximately nine percent of those with BAV have a family history of the disease, making family screening advisable.
Treatment for BAV
No specific treatment is required for individuals with bicuspid aortic valve disease. However, a patient diagnosed with the disease should be monitored on a regular basis in case of complications, including:
- Aortic stenosis: The aortic valve does not open wide enough, causing restricted blood flow
- Aortic regurgitation/insufficiency: The aortic valve does not close completely, causing the valve to leak
- Infective endocarditis: Bacteria or other organisms create an infection of heart valves and the heart lining
- Aortic aneurysm: The vessel wall of the aorta balloons outward
- Coarctation of the aorta: The aorta becomes too narrow, affecting blood flow
Volunteer for the Bicuspid Aortic Valve Registry
The University of Michigan has established a Bicuspid Aortic Valve registry study. The purpose of the study is to gather information on patients with bicuspid aortic valves, to better understand bicuspid aortic valves, and to identify the long term effects of this congenital disease. To find out more, visit the Bicuspid Aortic Valve registry page on UMHealthResearch.org.
Make an Appointment
To make an appointment to discuss your bicuspid aortic valve disease, call the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center at 888-287-1082 or email us at CVCCallCtr@med.umich.edu. Visit our Make an Appointment page for more information about what to expect when you call us.