Valvular Heart Disease

What are heart valves?

The heart has four valves. The purpose of these valves is to ensure that blood flows in a forward direction. When the valves are open the blood may flow forward. When the valves are closed blood is prevented from backwards.

What conditions may effect my heart valve?

Conditions that effect the heart valves may be either hereditary, that is you are born with them, or acquired, that is they develop during life. Any valve may be effected by a hereditary or acquired condition. Once effected the valve(s) either become narrowed or stenotic restricting flow through them or they become leaky or regurgitant resulting in excessive back-flow of blood.

Narrowed or stenotic valvular lesions create a pressure-load on the chamber behind the valve, which can cause straining, and thickening of that chamber. Leaky or regurgitant valves cause a volume load on the chambers of the heart, which can lead to progressive enlargement.

Most valvular conditions remain asymptomatic for many years as the heart has great capacity to cope with both pressure and volume overload, but ultimately they may result in progressive deterioration of function of the heart and may require surgical intervention.


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  Version 2.0, July 2004
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