Bicuspid Aortic Valve: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Picture of normal and bicuspid aortic valves

The heart has four chambers and four valves. The valves open and close to keep blood flowing through the heart. One of these valves, the aortic valve, usually has three flaps, or leaflets. But sometimes people are born with an aortic valve that has two flaps. This is called a bicuspid aortic valve.

A bicuspid aortic valve makes certain heart problems, like aortic valve stenosis and aortic valve regurgitation, more likely.

In aortic valve stenosis, the valve has narrowed. Your heart has to work harder to pump blood throughout your body. Symptoms may include chest pain, dizziness, fainting, or shortness of breath.

In aortic valve regurgitation, the valve does not close properly. Some of the blood leaks back (regurgitates) through the valve into the heart. Your heart has to work harder to pump blood throughout your body. Symptoms may include weakness and tiredness, shortness of breath, or an uneven heartbeat.

Although you have a bicuspid heart valve, your heart can work normally. But you have a higher chance that you might get stenosis or regurgitation as you get older. Do your best to keep your heart as healthy as possible. Talk to your doctor about how often you need checkups.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Do not smoke. Smoking can make heart problems worse. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet that is low in saturated fat and salt, and is full of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Eat at least 2 servings of fish each week. You may get more details about how to eat healthy, but these tips can help you get started.
  • If your doctor recommends it, get regular exercise. Talk with your doctor about what kind of exercise is safe for you.
  • Stay at a healthy weight.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have symptoms of a heart attack. These may include:
    • Chest pain or pressure, or a strange feeling in the chest.
    • Sweating.
    • Shortness of breath.
    • Nausea or vomiting.
    • Pain, pressure, or a strange feeling in the back, neck, jaw, or upper belly or in one or both shoulders or arms.
    • Light-headedness or sudden weakness.
    • A fast or irregular pulse.

After you call 911, the operator may tell you to chew 1 adult-strength or 2 to 4 low-dose aspirin. Wait for an ambulance. Do not try to drive yourself.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You develop new symptoms of aortic valve stenosis, such as chest pain, dizziness, or shortness of breath.
  • You have new or increased shortness of breath.
  • You are dizzy or light-headed, or you feel like you may faint.
  • You have sudden weight gain, such as more than 1 to 1.3 kilograms in a day or 2 kilograms in a week. (Your doctor may suggest a different range of weight gain.)
  • You have increased swelling in your legs, ankles, or feet.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You have trouble making healthy lifestyle changes.
  • You want more information about healthy lifestyle changes.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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