Bicuspid Aortic Valve

The aortic valve regulates blood flow from the heart into the aorta, the major blood vessel that delivers oxygen-rich blood to the body. Normally the valve has three branches or leaflets, but about one in 50 people are born with only two leaflets, which is known as a bicuspid aortic valve. The cause of this problem is unclear, but it is extremely common and often runs in families. In many cases, a bicuspid aortic valve goes undiagnosed throughout life because it doesn’t always cause symptoms. However, if the valve leaks or becomes narrow it can create complications such as congestive heart failure, leakage of blood through the valve back into the heart, and a narrowing of the valve's opening. If the complications are severe, surgery may be needed to repair a leaky or narrowed valve; in some cases a narrowed valve also can be opened through cardiac catheterization, in which a fine tube (catheter) with an inflatable balloon device on the end is directed to the heart and into the narrow opening of the aortic valve. Medication also may be used to relieve symptoms and avoid problems.

Why UAB

The UAB Congenital Heart Disease Program offers the most advanced care for structural heart disease, which often requires lifetime monitoring and care. Our multidisciplinary team of pediatric and adult cardiologists, cardiovascular surgeons, cardiovascular anesthesiologists, and maternal/fetal medicine specialists are uniquely qualified to treat patients before birth and into adulthood. In addition to seeing patients at the UAB Women & Infants Center and The Kirklin Clinic of UAB Hospital, UAB Medicine’s congenital heart disease specialists also see patients at North Alabama Children's Specialists in Huntsville and Physicians to Children/Central Alabama Children's Specialists in Montgomery.

Our modern ultrasound equipment allows many heart defects to be diagnosed before a child is born. Screening exams performed at 18-20 weeks are recommended for expectant mothers (or fathers) known to have congenital heart disease. If a defect is discovered, prenatal treatment and planning for delivery and postnatal treatment can be undertaken.

Thanks to advances in pediatric congenital care, the life expectancy for most patients now reaches far into adulthood, but more than 60% stop seeing a cardiologist once they turn 18. UAB’s Alabama Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program is designed to prevent that gap in care. As the only adult congenital heart disease program in the state and one of only a handful in the country, our expertise greatly increases the chances that symptoms will be identified early. This helps ensure that smaller problems are addressed before they develop into larger, more life-threatening issues such as heart failure, arrhythmia, residual congenital heart defects, endocarditis, and stroke.

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Related Conditions

Listed below are some conditions that may be related to or share some similarities with the condition addressed on this page.

Related Treatments

Depending on your case and your physician’s assessment, your condition may be treated using one or more various procedures. Some of those procedures are listed below for your convenience. Please note that this is not a comprehensive list and may vary depending on your specific diagnosis.

Clinical Trials

UAB is an active participant in research and clinical trials for the diagnosis and treatment of bicuspid aortic valve. We encourage you to speak to your physician about research and clinical trial options and browse the link below for more information on clinical trials at clinicaltrials.gov.

View Clinical Trials