What is bicuspid aortic valve disease?

The aortic valve is a one-way valve between the heart and the aorta, the main artery from the heart that distributes oxygen-rich blood to the body. Normally, the aortic valve has three small flaps or leaflets that open widely and close securely to regulate blood flow, allowing blood to flow from the heart to the aorta and preventing blood from flowing backwards into the heart.

In bicuspid aortic valve disease (BAVD), the valve has only two leaflets. With this deformity, the valve doesn’t function perfectly, but it may function adequately for years without causing symptoms or obvious signs of a problem.

The latest studies suggest that bicuspid aortic valve disease is caused by a connective tissue disorder that also causes other circulatory system problems. People with bicuspid aortic valve disease also may have abnormal coronary arteries, aortic aneurysm or an abnormal thoracic aorta (the portion of the aorta that passes through the upper chest) and unstable (labile) high blood pressure.

What causes bicuspid aortic valve disease?

The actual cause of bicuspid aortic valve disease is not completely clear. We do know that the two-leaflet valve develops in the early stages of pregnancy, and the defect is present at birth. About 2% of the population has BAVD, and it is twice as common in males as in females.

Reviewed: 07/15