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 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago

Bicuspid Aortic Valve

Bicuspid aortic valve (BAV) affects approximately one to two percent of people. It 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). About nine percent of people with BAV have relatives with the disease, so family screening is important.

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What is Bicuspid Aortic Valve?

Healthy aortic valves have three cusps (or leaflets) that regulate blood flow from the heart’s left ventricle to the aorta. In people with BAV, the aortic valves have only two cusps instead of three.

Many people with BAV will need surgery in their lifetime, either for the valve, the ascending aorta or both. Surgery may be minimally invasive. Sometimes surgeons can repair a leaky valve, but other times, the aortic valve will need to be replaced.


Team Approach to Treating Bicuspid Aortic Valve

Northwestern Memorial’s Center for Heart Valve Disease relies on a multidisciplinary approach to treating BAV. Our Bicuspid Aortic Valve Program is co-directed by Jyothy Puthumana, MD, (specializing in medical treatment), and S. Chris Malaisrie, MD, (specializing in surgery). They collaborate with Patrick M. McCarthy, MD, an internationally known cardiac surgeon specializing in valve repairs, and Robert O. Bonow, MD, past chair of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines (Committee on Management of Patients With Valvular Heart Disease).

Together, these experts lead a team of cardiologists, cardiac surgeons, nurses, cardiac rehabilitation specialists, psychologists and social workers to help manage the disease of BAV. 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.

Complications from Bicuspid Aortic Valve

About one-third of people with BAV will develop complications from the disease. Those who do develop complications may experience the following:

  • 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
  • Ascending aortic aneurysm: The vessel wall in the first part of the aorta balloons outward
  • Aortic dissection: BAV causes bleeding into and along the wall of the aorta
  • Infective endocarditis: Bacteria cause an infection of the lining of the heart chambers and heart valves
  • 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.


For a more complete view of bicuspid aortic valve, visit the John Ritter Foundation for Aortic Health. The Bicuspid Aortic Foundation (BAF) also offers a wide array of educational tools and resources.

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