Aorta is an artery that is responsible for bringing oxygen from your heart to the other parts of your body. The aortic valve, on the other hand, is the valve in between the aorta and the heart. It has three leaflets, or cusps, that works for the regulation of blood flow. It close securely once the blood passes through so that it would not flow back into the heart.
Some people are born with the deformity in the heart wherein the valve consists of only two cusps, instead of three. Moreover, it does not work perfectly. It is called a bicuspid aortic valve. In rare cases, people are born with only one cusp or four cusps.
Bicuspid Aortic Valve
The bicuspid aortic valve is dangerous as it may cause the aortic valve in the heart to narrow. The narrowing of the valve may hinder the normal blood flow from the heart to other parts of the body. In some cases, the valve does not close securely enough that the blood flows back into the left ventricle.
There are some cases wherein a person with bicuspid aortic valve functions perfectly without any sign of a problem. But not until their adults. Some patients even reach elderly before experiencing the problem with having a bicuspid aortic valve.
Some patients with bicuspid aortic valve have an existing condition with their valves. While others face the problem in their enlarged aorta – the main blood pathway coming from the heart.
What are the Symptoms of Bicuspid Aortic Valve?
The bicuspid aortic valve is usually diagnosed in the adulthood stage of the patient. This is because, most of the time, the patient’s heart functions well and he/she do not show any signs of an existing BAVD.
The condition called stenosis is the primary reason for the symptoms of BAVD to occur. It happens when the calcium deposits around and on the leaflets narrow the valve. With this condition, the heart is forced to pump harder so that blood can make it through the valve. Eventually, it will produce a stenotic valve. The symptoms related to it are chest pain, dizziness, and difficulty breathing because of the lack of enough blood flow supplies to the brain.
In the case where the valve does not close up properly, the blood flows back into the heart. The heart then will have to pump the same blood, which causes strain in the left ventricle. This occurrence is called aortic valve insufficiency. Because the repetitive pumping of the same blood, the ventricle will either expand or dilate and may cause a patient to feel a shortness of breath when he/she walks up to stairs or other exertion.
To diagnose if you have a bicuspid aortic valve, your doctor will refer to the symptoms that you are experiencing. He or she may even look at your family medical history. A physical examination may be necessary such as using a stethoscope to hear your heart. A heart murmur usually indicates that you have a bicuspid aortic valve.
An echocardiogram is another tool that doctors use to identify bicuspid aortic valve existence. The equipment makes a video image of how your heart moves and the doctors study the test result to identify the problem with your heart chambers, aorta, aortic valve, and blood flow through your heart. Additional imaging test may be conducted by your doctor to fully diagnose your condition.
Other examinations that is not related to heart check-up may diagnose bicuspid aortic valve.
Are there Treatments for Bicuspid Aortic Valve?
People with bicuspid aortic valve needs regular monitoring to see any condition alteration. As people born with bicuspid aortic valve age, they will eventually develop a problem such as a stenosis, enlarged aorta, or aortic valve insufficiency which may require treatment. Depending on the treatment needed, a patient may undergo:
- Balloon Valvuloplasty – With this method, your surgeon will make an incision in your groin area. He/she will then insert a catheter that has a balloon on the end. The surgeon will guide the catheter until it reaches your aortic valve. There, he/she will inflate the balloon, which will cause your valve to expand. Once it happens, he/she will deflate and remove the balloon. The method is effective in treating stenosis among babies and children, but adults seem to have a problem with it. The valve narrows back over time.
- Aortic Valve Replacement – In this surgery, the damaged valve will be removed by your surgeon and will be replaced with either a mechanical valve or a biological tissue valve. Biological tissue valves are made from heart tissue of pig, cow, or human. It may even come from your own pulmonary valve. However, both types of aortic valve replacement have risks and you have to speak with your doctor about it. Mechanical valve replacement, for instance, requires the patient to take a blood-thinning medication for the rest of his/her life. The medication will prevent any blood clots to occur in the patient. Meanwhile, biological tissue valve replacement requires to be replaced over time as it degenerates.
- Aortic Root and Ascending Surgery – When an enlarged section of the aorta choked the heart, the surgeon have to eliminate the said enlarged section for the heart to breath. As the enlarged aorta is removed, a synthetic tube will be grafted in replace of it. During the procedure, a damaged aortic valve can also be repaired, but it can also remain depending on the case.
- Aortic Valve Repair – This method is not usually performed to treat a bicuspid aortic valve. But it is used to repair a damaged aortic valve. To do it, surgeons have two options. The first one is to isolate glued valve flaps. The second one is to either reshape or eradicate the extra valve tissue. This can make the flaps to close securely.
Once, you are detected with a bicuspid aortic valve you will have to find a lifelong caretaker in the form of a pediatric cardiologist if you are diagnosed while you are a child or congenital cardiologist for adults. You should follow regular check-ups to monitor your condition if there are some changes.