The myth of the aortic annulus: the anatomy of the subaortic outflow tract

Ann Thorac Surg. 1991 Sep;52(3):640-6. doi: 10.1016/0003-4975(91)90966-t.


Surgical repair of the small aortic root is limited in part by the very structure of the outflow tract from the left ventricle. The root is not constructed on the basis of a ringlike annulus supporting the leaflets of the aortic valve. The only truly circular structure within the outflow tract is the junction of the aortic wall with the underlying ventricular structures, themselves partly muscular and partly fibrous. This circular ventriculoarterial junction is crossed by the semilunar attachments of the leaflets of the aortic valve, producing an interlinking arrangement between the expanded aortic sinuses and three triangles of fibrous tissue placed beneath the apexes of the commissures between the valve leaflets. The triangles form extensions of the left ventricle that are related, in part, to the pericardial cavity surrounding the heart. The arrangements of the attachment of the leaflets in malformed valves with two (or only one) effective leaflets are highly abnormal, although these valves are usually produced on the template of three aortic sinuses. The valve with two leaflets rarely gives problems during childhood. In valves producing "critical stenosis", there is usually only one effective leaflet, a condition due to incomplete liberation of two of the anticipated three commissures. Detailed study shows that, in these malformed hearts, the attachment of the leaflets is much more annular than in normal valves, with inadequate formation of the fibrous triangles.

MeSH terms

  • Aortic Valve / abnormalities
  • Aortic Valve / anatomy & histology*
  • Aortic Valve Stenosis / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Terminology as Topic