Heart Valves

The heart consists of four chambers and four valves. The valves allow the flow of blood from one chamber to the other. As the heart muscle contracts, the valves open and shut, letting blood flow into the ventricles and atria at alternate times.

Anatomy of the heart

The heart consists of four chambers that receive blood from the body and pump out blood to it.

  • two upper chambers are called the atria — receive blood coming back to the heart
  • two lower chambers are called the ventricles — pump the blood out to the heart

The heart also consists of four valves that prevent backward flow of blood (also called leaflets). Each valve has flaps, called leaflets, which allow forward flow of blood and prevent the backward flow.

  • Tricuspid valve: between the right atrium and right ventricle
  • Pulmonary valve: between the right ventricle and pulmonary artery
  • Mitral valve: between the left atrium and left ventricle
  • Aortic: between the left ventricle and aorta

Valves are flaps that act as one-way inlets for blood entering and leaving the chambers and ventricles.

What does it mean if my child has heart valve disease?

There are a number of problems that can happen with heart valves:

  • Regurgitation (or leakage of the valve)
    • valve doesn’t close completely, causing the blood to flow backward through the valve. This results in leakage of blood back into the atria from the ventricles (in the case of the mitral and tricuspid valves) or leakage of blood back into the ventricles (in the case of the aortic and pulmonary valves).
  • Stenosis (or narrowing of the valve)
    • valve opening is narrowed or valves become damaged or scarred, inhibiting the ability of the heart to pump blood across the narrowed valvedue to the increased force required to pump blood through the stiff (stenotic) valve(s).
  • Atresia
    • valve opening does not develop at all, preventing blood from passing

Heart valves can have both regurgitation and stenosis, and more than one heart valve can be affected at the same time. Heart valve malfunction is serious, hampering the heart’s ability to adequately pump blood. This can lead to heart failure.