Facebook Twitter Instagram You Tube Pinterest LinkedIn RSS Podcasts Video Library Blog
 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago

Diagnosing Bicuspid Aortic Valve

Bicuspid aortic valve (BAV) is the most common congenital heart disorder, impacting both the aortic valve (which controls the flow of blood into the aorta) and the thoracic aorta (the major vessel that sends blood throughout the body). Approximately one to two percent of people have BAV, and in about nine percent of those cases the condition is hereditary, so family screening is important—especially because the majority of patients with BAV have no symptoms.

How is Bicuspid Aortic Valve Diagnosed?

Your primary care physician may make an initial diagnosis upon hearing a heart murmur during a physical examination. A heart murmur is an abnormal sound caused by turbulent blood flow across an abnormal valve, and may be caused by:

  • 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

While most people with BAV experience no symptoms (less than five percent of BAV patients who are closely followed develop complications), those who do feel symptoms may have the following:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Fatigue/feeling over-tired
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Heart racing
  • Light-headedness
  • Fainting

Echocardiograms and Bicuspid Aortic Valve

An echocardiogram (echo) is the most accurate way to confirm the diagnosis of BAV. An echo uses sound waves to create a moving picture of the heart. An echo can also help identify 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
  • Aortic aneurysm: The vessel wall of the aorta balloons outward
  • Coarctation of the aorta: The aorta becomes too narrow along an edge

Advanced Diagnostic Tools

Northwestern’s Center for Translational Imaging offers patients with BAV access to advanced diagnostic technology. Tools like four-dimensional (4D) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CAT or CT scan) can help our team at the Bicuspid Aortic Valve Program identify complications from BAV and determine the best course of treatment.

Team Approach to Treating Bicuspid Aortic Valve Disease

We believe a multidisciplinary approach leads to more successful treatment of heart disease. Our expert team of cardiologists, cardiac surgeons, nurses, cardiac rehabilitation specialists, psychologists and social workers collaborate to help patients manage the disease. During your care, a dedicated nurse coordinator will follow your case and help coordinate the team.

Find out more about Northwestern's Bicuspid Aortic Valve program and download your free guide.

Contact Us Today

For more information regarding BAV or our Bicuspid Aortic Valve Program, please call the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute at 866-662-8467 or request a first-time appointment online.

Clinical Trials

For more information regarding clinical trials related to BAV please visit the Clinical Trials Unit of Northwestern, send an e-mail or call 312-926-4000.

Last UpdateDecember 18, 2013
top