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Heart Defect Seems to Pose Low Risk of Aorta Tear
Date:9/13/2011

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Sept. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Many people born with a heart defect known as bicuspid aortic valve live in fear of sudden death, but a new study finds only a small risk for a life-threatening complication called aortic dissection.

However, these people are at high risk of a different complication -- an aortic aneurysm, or bulge in the wall of the aorta, researchers report.

Bicuspid aortic valve, the most common congenital heart defect, occurs when the heart's aortic valve has only two flaps that open and close rather than the normal three. The aorta, the large blood vessel that carries blood away from the heart, sometimes tears, or dissects, as a result of this defect.

"Aortic complications are real in bicuspid aortic valve disease," said lead researcher Dr. Hector I. Michelena, an assistant professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

"The risk of dissection is higher than the general population but remains low," he said. "But both risks of aneurysm and surgery for aneurysm are significantly increased. Despite this, the 25-year survival is not affected in the bicuspid aortic valve disease patient."

This should reassure these patients, Michelena said.

For the study, published in the Sept. 14 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, the researchers examined the medical records of 416 patients diagnosed with bicuspid aortic valve between 1980 and 1999 and looked for complications due to the condition.

Over an average of 16 years' follow-up, two patients had an aortic dissection, putting the risk at 0.5 percent. Although that risk is 8.4 times higher than for people without bicuspid aortic valve, the absolute risk is very low, Michelena's group found.

Forty-nine patients in the study developed aneurysms. That puts the risk of developing this problem at 26 percent for these patients, and that's 86 per
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