Sunday, February 12, 2012

Tsunami of Hearts - Bicuspid Aortic Valves and Heart Month 2012

BAV and Heart Month
Doug Grieshop at 2 months,
born with undiagnosed BAV,
died of aortic rupture at age  33
Somewhere today, a child is born with a bicuspid aortic valve. Along with the cries of the newborn, is there another sound? Will a mumur catch the doctor's ear? Sometimes perhaps, but the tiny valve with only two leaflets may make no sound at all.

What does that little two leaflet aortic valve
 portend in the future
 for this beautiful child, born today?

A Very Old Problem
First drawn by Leonardo da Vinci and capturing the attention of many great physicians in the pre-surgical era (Osler, Abbott, Lewis, Grant, Bishop, Trubeck(3) ), the bicuspid aortic valve is not a new discovery. Interestingly, today's statistics for congenital heart disease often do not include it, typically counting only those heart deformities requiring intervention in childhood.(1)

A True Tsunami - Millions of Hearts
The magnitude of the impact of BAV is tremendous, injuring or killing more individuals than all other heart defects combined.(2) The reason is that there are so many BAVs in the world. Actual statistics are limited (2), but using an estimated 2% of the population, in the United States alone, the number with BAV in the United States would be just over 6 million. How many of them will at some point be injured or die?

Seemingly Simple, Well Known, Still Not Understood
"We don't know very much about bicuspid aortic valves." These were the words of a physician, quoted by a shocked, grieving young widow.  A physician who went to the service for her husband, who sat with her and reviewed all the reports - both of them trying desperately to understand what happened. Why she came downstairs and found her husband dead. It can seem safe to watch and wait, and then there is a sudden death that is not from aortic dissection or rupture. In the files of the Foundation is an autopsy report, along with a beautiful picture of another young man and his daughter. Sudden death, nothing found except a bicuspid aortic valve. Not as common perhaps, but still part of the story, along with aortic stenosis, aortic regurgitation, endocarditis, brain aneurysm, aortic aneurysm, aortic rupture, aortic dissection.

Dr. Abbott's Work
In 2011, the Foundation highlighted the work of Dr. Maude E. Abbott. Individuals and families affected by BAV are needed to change the future for the child born today with BAV - to move forward from where we are, to help find answers to the many questions that remain about BAV.

Be a "Heart Donor" in 2012
Contact the Bicuspid Aortic Foundation at if you would like to help. And please consider a donation to support the search for answers. For as little as $10, you too can be a "heart donor" for the child born today with a bicuspid aortic valve.

(1) The Incidence of Congenital Heart Disease, Hoffman and Kaplan, Journal of American College of Cardiology, Volume 39, Icessue 12, June 19, 2002.
(2) Clinical significance of the bicuspid aortic valve, C Ward, Heart 2000;83:81-85 doi:10.1136/heart.83.1.81  
(3) Atlas of Congenital Heart Disease, M.E. Abbott, 1936, Plate IX.

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