Heart valves keep the blood flowing through the heart
by opening and closing their leaflets. When the leaflets open, blood moves
forward. When the leaflets close, a tight seal is formed which prevents
blood flow across the valve.
There are two valves which separate the atrium from the ventricle: the
tricuspid valve sits on the right side of the heart and the mitral valve
is located on the left side of the heart. Two other valves are positioned
between the ventricles and the arteries that carry blood away from the
heart. The pulmonary valve is on the right side of the heart and lies
between the right ventricle and the pulmonary artery, which carries blood
to the lungs. The aortic valve is positioned on the left side between
the left ventricle and the aorta, which carries blood to the body.
Heart valves can be affected by a number of different
disease processes which may cause them to become damaged. You may be born
with abnormalities of the valve that may require surgery at birth or later
in life. Acquired disease processes that cause damage to the valve include
rheumatic fever, calcification, coronary artery disease, infection, and
myxomatous disease (floppy valve).
Valves may become leaky (termed "regurgitation", "insufficieny"
or "incompetence") or they may become too tight or stiff (termed
"stenosis"). The result of valvular disease is that the heart
has to work harder to pump the same amount of blood to the body. The overworked
heart may fail causing dizziness, shortness of breath, fatigue, fluid
retention, and irregular heartbeats.
At St. Lukes-Roosevelt, we offer the full range of options for surgical
correction of all valvular conditions.