Bicuspid Aortic Valve (BAV) in Children

January 6, 2023
Janelle Thomas MSN, RN
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Like other congenital heart diseases, finding out your child has been diagnosed with bicuspid aortic valve brings so many new challenges and anxieties into your life. While this can be a stressful time, one of the best first steps any parent can take is to learn as much as possible about this condition and the available treatment and care options.

We created this informative guide to share key information about bicuspid aortic valve in children, including treatment and care considerations, so you can be as engaged as possible in the health and wellness of your little one.

What is a Bicuspid Aortic Valve (BAV)?

Bicuspid aortic valve (BAV) is a congenital heart defect where the aortic valve only has two cusps, or is bicuspid, instead of the usual three. The aortic valve separates the lower left chamber of the heart, called the left ventricle, from the aorta, which is the body’s primary artery. Cusps are small pieces of tissue that open and close with each heartbeat, helping to ensure proper blood flow.

Having BAV can affect cardiovascular function and lead to problems, including aortic valve narrowing, backward blood flow into the heart, and enlargement of the aortic valve. While this condition is serious and is associated with a higher risk of certain complications, there are treatment options available, and children dealing with this condition often have a positive long-term prognosis.

Bicuspid Aortic Valve Causes & Risk Factors

As a congenital heart disease, BAV develops due to abnormalities that occur while babies are still in the womb. Doctors and medical researchers are still working to fully understand what causes these abnormalities. Underlying causes can include environmental factors, genetics, and spontaneous mutations.

The following risk factors lead to a higher chance of children being born with BAV:

  • Certain medications taken by the mother during pregnancy
  • Smoking and/or consuming alcohol during pregnancy
  • Diabetes
  • Family history of congenital heart disease
  • Family history of seizures and/or epilepsy
  • Environmental factors such as exposure to chemicals or poor air quality

Bicuspid Aortic Valve Symptoms in Children

In many cases, BAV is not identified until later in life, but in more serious cases, symptoms are identified in infants and small children, including:

  • Abnormal and delayed growth, particularly due to feeding difficulties
  • Fatigue and lack of activity
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sweating

Bicuspid Aortic Valve Complications

BAV can lead to a range of potential complications, including the following related heart conditions:

  • Aortic valve stenosis, which is constriction of the aortic valve that inhibits blood flow
  • Aortic valve regurgitation, which is backwards flow of blood into the heart due to the valve not closing properly
  • Aortic valve enlargement, which happens because the aorta must work harder

Because of these issues, children with BAV face a higher risk of developmental problems, infections, and even congestive heart failure. Identifying and treating BAV as early as possible is the best way to minimize these risks and promote long-term wellness.

How to Diagnose Bicuspid Aortic Valve

In some situations, BAV is identified before birth during routine testing including an ultrasound and is followed by an echocardiogram to confirm the diagnosis. If a child is showing signs of the condition after birth, doctors typically diagnose BAV with a physical examination, diagnostic imagery such as a computed tomography (CT) scan, and other tests.

Bicuspid Aortic Valve (BAV) Treatment Options

Children and families with BAV have a number of treatments available to help manage this condition. Regular visits with a cardiologist who specializes in heart care is usually required to monitor the condition, check for complications, and help determine next steps.

While there is no medication to directly treat BAV, less serious cases may only need treatment for related issues like high blood pressure. In most situations, surgery will be indicated to repair or replace the aortic valve. Specific approaches include:

  • Aortic valve replacement, where the surgeon removes the damaged valve and replaces it with either an artificial valve or a valve made from donor material
  • Aortic repair surgery, where surgeons remove damaged material and use a replacement tube or graft to help the aortic valve function properly
  • Balloon valvoplasty, which involves a surgical balloon and catheter that is inflated to expand the valve to promote proper blood flow and is then removed

Caring for a Child With Bicuspid Aortic Valve

After surgery, children will typically have ongoing care and monitoring needs, including recurring appointments and testing to make sure the heart is functioning correctly. Changes to activity, prescription medications, and devices such as pacemakers are commonly recommended treatments for children dealing with BAV and related heart problems.

There are many steps families can take to promote healthy development and a more normal activity level for children with this condition. For mental and emotional needs, support groups and counseling can be very helpful. Some families also turn to pediatric home health services, so children with BAV can receive care and support for this condition.

Home health professionals can assist with nutrition, administering medication, basic respite care, accompanying your child to appointments, and other needs depending on your specific needs and care plan.

Contact Care Options for Kids for Home Health Care

It can be hard to balance your time between work, home, and caring for a child. That’s why our team of skilled professionals at Care Options for Kids is here to help. We have been enforcing precautionary measures and following the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines for COVID-19, to ensure the safety and health of our clients and employees.

Our home health care services offer one-on-one care in the comfort of your home. We refer loving and competent nurses to provide customized care for families — from a few hours a day to around-the-clock supervision. Contact us directly to speak with a home health care professional, or request a free in-home assessment. Together we can determine the best plan of action to keep your loved ones happy and healthy.

If you or a loved one are considering Pediatric Home Health Care Services, contact the caring staff at Care Options for Kids. Call today at (888) 592-5855.