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Valve Disease

About the Heart

The heart has four chambers: the two upper chambers are the right and left atria, the two lower chambers are the right and left ventricles. Blood is pumped in and out of the different chambers through the heart valves. They ensure that blood flows in just one direction through the heart.

Four Heart Valves

The four valves of the heart are:

  • Tricuspid, which is between the right atrium and right ventricle
  • Pulmonary or pulmonic, which is between the right ventricle and pulmonary artery
  • Mitral, which is between the left atrium and the left ventricle
  • Aortic, which is between the left ventricle and the aorta. This is the largest artery in the body and it is the main artery leading to the rest of the body.

Valves are similar to doors that open and shut. They consist of small flaps of tissue, called leaflets, that open and close to allow blood flow in only one direction. The flaps in two of the valves, the mitral and the tricuspid, also have tough, fibrous strands of tissue called chordae tendineae that connect the valves to the muscles inside the ventricle walls. These strands and muscles keep the leaflets stable, protecting against any backward blood flow.

Heart Valve Disease

Heart valve disease refers to when any of your heart's valves are not working correctly. In adults, the aortic and mitral valves are the ones that most often develop problems.

Aortic Valve Disease

The aortic valve controls the flow of blood pumped out of your heart from the left ventricle into the aorta, the main artery leading to the rest of the body. Aortic valve disease refers to damage to the aortic valve, causing it not to function properly. Aortic valve disease includes  aortic stenosis and  aortic insufficiency (regurgitation). These diseases can be related to congenital defects, such as bicuspid aortic valve, or to secondary damage from chronic degeneration or  heart valve infections (endocarditis).

Mitral Valve Disease

The mitral valve controls blood flow between the upper (atrium) and lower (ventricle) chambers on the left side of the heart. Mitral valve disease refers to damage to the mitral valve, causing it not to function properly. Among the most common problems involving the mitral valve are mitral valve prolapsemitral valve regurgitation, mitral valve stenosis and mitral valve endocarditis.

Contact Information

Cardiovascular Medicine
Division of the CardioVascular Institute
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
330 Brookline Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
617-667-8800

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