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Forum Name: Congenital Heart Disease in Adults

Question: Bicuspid heart valve and fainting/seizure?


 thestocksfam2001 - Mon Sep 22, 2008 2:05 pm

Hello there,

I am not sure if I am even posting in the correct area but I am trying to get some feedback on an issue my husband has. Sorry this is a long post... Here is the history.

In 2005, when my husband was 26 years old he fainted/passed out/hit dead air at work (he was an underground miner). He was taken to the ER where they ran the gauntlet of test on him; EKG, MRI, CAT scans, blood work etc. All tests were fine for the most part, they did say that he had a bicuspid heart valve which was not a problem and diagnosed his episode Syncope. We were referred to a cardiologist and he explained what the bicuspid heart valve was and said that we really didn't have anything to worry about. Fast forward a five months, my husband was really tired after a long 16 hour day at work and was sitting on the couch. I could tell he was fighting sleep, next thing I know he just kind of slumps and his whole body went slack. Then he jerked a little and started snoring. I went over to him and tried to wake him up, it took about 2 minutes or so before he woke up. When he did wake up he was very disoriented, he asked me the same question 4 times and kept repeating his sentences. In about 5 minutes he was just fine and no longer confused but he didn't remember talking to me right after he woke up. I just chalked it up to the fact that he was really tired and we didn't go to the doctor.

About three months later, on my husbands one day off from work we went out to get a sandwich for lunch and he asked me to drive home because he was really tired. We switched places and about 15 minutes later we were pulling in the driveway when he did the same thing- slumped and sounded like he held his breathe. I put the truck in park and leaned over to see if he was okay when he started seizing. This was very different than the earlier faint, this to me was a full blown seizure. I called the paramedics and they were there in a bout 30 minutes (it was snowing and in rural Colorado). By the time they had got there my husbands seizure was over, he had about five minutes of disorientation and didn't remember the episode at all but was feeling fine. When the ambulance showed up he actually picked up the stretcher and helped them put it back in the truck and said he was feeling just fine:) I forced him to let them take him to the hospital, where again they ran a battery of tests. All of which came back fine. We were referred to a neurologist this time who then performed an EEG also. No tumor, no brain issues and no cause. The neurologist prescribed an anti-seizure medicine and we thought we were good. We did all the follow ups with the doctor and the medicine seemed to to the trick.

Now a couple of years later, my husband had another issue last night. I made a doctors appointment but they can't get him in until Friday. He was really tired again, we had a weekend away and drove about 12 hours with little sleep. It was late , about 8:30pm and my husband was in the recliner starting to doze off when he slumped down made some moaning noises and looked like he went to sleep. I went over to ask is he was okay because of the moans and could not wake him up for about a minute. When he woke he was once again disoriented for about 5 minutes and then was fine.

I found some web sites about syncope and one said "abnormalities of the heart valves can cause fainting/syncope". Then when I was looking at bicuspid valve pages the symptoms of that can be fatigue, dizziness and fainting. Now I know that I am no doctor, but it seems like the connection was missed earlier. Every doctor we saw, we told them about the bicuspid valve and everyone dismissed it as not having anything to do with the fainting issues. I will be sure to bring it up again on Friday with a new doc in a new state now. I was just wondering if anyone is familiar with bicuspid valves and fainting or syncope. Or if anyone had any advice on any avenues we should pursue! Thank you so much for your time!
 John Kenyon, CNA - Tue Sep 30, 2008 11:05 pm

User avatar Hi there -

Your concern is very understandable. The fact is that while there is no direct connection between bicuspid valve and seizures/fainting, there is an indirect and poorly understood statistical conncection between this (and several other interchangeable valve abnormalities) and vasovagal episodes (resulting in fainting and even seizure-like activity). While the valve abnormality is duly noted, it probably won't be figured into the equation when your husband is evaluated. However, he should be tested for vasovagal reflex (often now referred to as neurocardiogenic syncope). While there is no clear reason why these two things should co-exist, the often do. The testing would be to determine if your husband suffers from neurocardiogenic syncope, and a tilt-table test would be one of the big ones. I might also mention that some people who suffer from vasovagal reflex often have this happen when they've been exceptionally active and are very tired. They tend to doze off, fall deeply asleep, and almost seem to go into a partial seizure if disturbed.

If the cardiological study shows up nothing, a neurological workup might be next in order. I don't think this is a life-threatening problem (unless, of course, it were to occur when your husband was driving or something like that). Still, it is something that needs to be clarified. The fact that the bicuspid valve is present is more a marker than anything else, and is not, so far as I am aware, ever actually a cause of this sort of symptomology.

I hope this is helpful. Best of luck to you both, and please follow up here as needed.

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