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. Luke’s-Roosevelt, we offer the full range of options for surgical correction of all valvular conditions.


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