What is a Bicuspid Aortic Valve & Ascending Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm?
Normal Aorta Anatomy
Blood flows from the left ventricle into the aortic root.
A small portion of this blood flows into the coronary arteries which supply the muscle of the heart.
The remainder of the blood flows through the aortic valve into the ascending aorta, the aortic arch, and finally the
Bicuspid Aortic Valve
A normal aortic valve has three leaflets or cusps i.e.
tricuspid valve. A bicuspid valve results from an abnormal fusion of two leaflets, resulting in a valve with
only two leaflets or cusps. Bicuspid aortic valve is a congenital defect resulting from abnormal development of
the valve. It is a common abnormality and occurs in 1-2% of people. This is the second most common cause of aortic
valve disease requiring surgery. Eventually this valve can become stenotic or insufficient, thereby compromising blood
flow to the rest of the body. This usually occurs when that person is in their 50's or 60’s. Tonya was unlucky in
that her valve became severely stenotic in her mid-30’s.
Stenotic Bicuspid Valve
Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm
This is an abnormal dilatation of the aorta within the chest. It can involve the ascending aorta, descending aorta, or
both. Ascending aortic aneurysms can accompany bicuspid aortic valve, as in Tonya.
Tonya’s aneurysm was a large ascending aortic aneurysm which also involved the aortic root. If the aneurysm becomes too
large, the risk of aortic rupture increases. Tonya’s surgery included replacement of her entire ascending aorta with a
How the Heart Valves Work - This links to a cool animated video which shows how the valves work with normal blood
flow through the heart. It also shows both valvular stenosis and regurgitation (insufficiency).