Heart Valves Function and Malfunction

The heart valves are responsible for regulating blood flow between the four chambers of the heart. The upper chambers of the heart are termed the right and left atria. The lower chambers are named the right and left ventricle. The right ventricle has 2 valves . The inlet valve is called the tricuspid valve which moves the blood in one direction from the right atrium to the right ventricle. The outlet valve is named the pulmonary valve which moves the blood from the right ventricle to the pulmonary artery. The left ventricle has 2 valves . The inlet valve is called the mitral valve which moves the blood in one direction from the left atrium to the left ventricle. The outlet valve is named the aortic valve which moves the blood from the left ventricle to the aorta. Each of the four valves is composed of leaflets that is called by physicians cusps. These leaflets are responsible for the opening and closing of the valves.

When the heart valves get diseased, they are either narrowed (Valve Stenosis) or became incompetent (Valve insufficiency or leaking valve). Narrowed or leaking valves will sure interfere with the pumping function of the heart. Doctors identify valve problems when they listen to your heart with a stethoscope. One important test to confirm a valve problem is an echocardiogram.

A diseased heart valve can be repaired or replaced depending on the quality of the valve. Repair is usually performed with surgery, however, cardiac catheterization can be used efficiently in case of a narrowed mitral valve. Using a local anesthetic, a catheter is introduced through the upper thigh and threaded until it reaches the mitral valve. A balloon is then inflated to widen the valve orifice. This procedure is generally safe and your hospital stay is relatively short compared to surgery.

If your doctor decided that valve replacement is the answer to your valve problem, then an open heart surgery is indicated. Artificial Valves used to replace your own diseased valve are either mechanical or bioprosthetic. Bioprosthetic valves are made from pigs or cows heart valves. One of the advantages of mechanical valves is the durability since they can stay for longer duration, yet you have to take blood thinner for life. Blood thinners or anticoagulants will prevent blood clots from forming on the valve. Bioprosthetic valves have a shorter life and they tend to degenerate in 12 years, however you will only need to take anticoagulants for just 3-6 months after surgery. It is important to note that artificial valves have a high incidence of getting infected and antibiotics will be prescribed before some dental and surgical procedures. These antibiotics will prevent bacterial infections to spread to the newly replaced valve.

Blood Circulation Through Your Body and how do the heart valves function? “Watch the Video”

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Yasser Elnahas

MD, PHD, Professor Of CardioVascular Surgery
Dr. Yasser Elnahas, Is an associate Professor of Cardiovascular Surgery. Dr. Elnahas was trained as a fellow At Texas Heart Institute And Mayo Clinic Foundation.Dr. Elnahas is dedicated to educating the general public about different disease conditions and simplifying the medical knowledge in an easy to understand terminology.

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