Heart valves help regulate the flow of blood from your body, into the lungs and back out to your body. The four chambers of the heart are separated by the use of valves that orchestrate which direction blood is sent and coordinate the timing of your circulatory system. It is imperative that these valves open and close at the appropriate times or the resulting dysfunction can lead to a lack of oxygen being sent around your body. Each valve has two responsibilities: to open correctly and to close correctly.
It is helpful to understand the parts of the heart and the role of each valve when learning about heart valve disease. The heart has two sides and four chambers, two on each side that hold the blood while it is pumped through the heart. The two upper chambers are the right and left atria, and the lower chambers are the right and left ventricles. (See diagram below.) Blood enters the heart into the right atrium, through the tricuspid valve and into the right ventricle. From here is passes through the pulmonary valve and into the lungs to receive oxygen. Upon return from the lungs, blood flows into the left atrium through the mitral valve and into the left ventricle. Finally the blood is pumped through the aortic valve and back into the body.
Sometimes there are problems with the flow of blood through your heart. There is a variety of conditions and diseases that can lead to complications with heart chambers and valves. Additionally there are many different ways to treat or repair valve problems.
This information is provided by the Department of Surgery at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. It is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition.