I always thought four leaves were supposed to be lucky, but in my heart’s case, they are not. At 35, I was diagnosed with a very rare congenital heart anomaly called Quadricuspid Aortic Valve. It is so rare that there are only 300 cases reported and an incidence rate of .013%-.043%. Although I live a very healthy lifestyle, I was still diagnosed with a condition. Here is why you should learn from my story.
A quick note
Before heading into what this condition is, I want to stress the importance of going to the doctor and upkeeping a healthy lifestyle. Upon hearing this diagnosis, some may wonder why even worry so much about your health if you still have a condition. Because it could be so much worse. Imagine if I was not so physically active and ate unwell? You never know what condition you may have that you have no control over. Take care of yourself, go to the doctor, and eat healthfully. You will thank yourself later.
About Quadricuspid Aortic Valve
Because a Quadricuspid Aortic Valve (QAV) is so rare, you can imagine there isn’t much information on it. Because I have an exercise physiology degree and have worked in cardiac rehabilitation, I am more aware than most, but it is still confusing. It was first reported in 1862 in an autopsy. It’s been mostly found post-mortem or during other procedures, but with modern medicine, they are finding more people with it. About 19-32% of people found with this present with other congenital defects which I have. I have a small patent foramen ovale.
Patent foramen ovale
Patent foramen ovale is a hole between the left and right atria (upper heart chambers). This hole exists in everyone before birth, but most often, it closes shortly after being born. Overall it does not cause complications; some symptoms include migraines, which I sometimes get! The one I have is tiny.
What is an aortic valve?
A normal aortic valve should be three valves, and the valves separate the Aorta from the left ventricle and open to allow blood to flow to the body. People can also be diagnosed with a bicuspid (two valves) or unicuspid (one valve), but quadricuspid is the least common.
Quadricuspid Aortic Valve Symptoms and How I was Diagnosed
What caused me to go to the doctor in the first place were two fainting episodes within six weeks of each other with no other symptoms. My poor friends and family that witnessed the episodes were scared for my health, and so was I. I decided to go to my PCP, who recommended a cardiologist. I wore a heart rate monitor for two weeks and underwent an echocardiogram, and they found the four valves in my heart.
Other symptoms may include:
- Syncope (fainting)
- Chest Pain
- Difficulty breathing
Quadricuspid Aortic Valve Complications
The most common complication of QAV is Aortic regurgitation (AR). Aortic regurgitation happens when the valves do not close as tightly, and blood flows backward, and affects how efficiently the blood pumps in your body. Most people may develop this in their 50th or 60th decade. Aortic stenosis (AS) may also be present with QAV. Aortic stenosis is the narrowing of the Aorta.
Quadricuspid Aortic Valve Treatment
People opt for surgery to replace the valves if there are complications present. According to a review, if there are no other issues present, only follow-up is required throughout life. I hope never to have to get surgery and manage it by continuing my healthy lifestyle.
Quadricuspid Aortic Valve Life Expectancy
Because the condition is so rare, there is limited awareness and suggestions for treatment. From what I read, about 20% of people require surgical intervention. I will continue to focus on living a healthy lifestyle and eating correctly. The cardiologist mentioned my heart condition was excellent overall, and I do not need to change anything. I could not find exercise recommendations for people with this congenital condition, so I will follow the regular exercise recommendations.
What this means for you
Although you might not be diagnosed with this condition, I wanted to raise awareness around the importance of living a healthy lifestyle and seeing the doctor regularly. Although we do everything in our power not to have an issue, sometimes our genetics has other plans for us. It’s impossible to predict everything that will happen with your health, so it’s essential to be ready by investing in it now. It may lessen any complications and make your life easier should you have an unknown condition you cannot prevent.
I hope this gives you some insight for those who find themselves with this condition or similar. I know I struggled to find the information, and I hope this makes it easier for you to understand. I am glad I discovered this information now so that I can be prepared for it later.