Recent Blog Articles

Heart Valve Problems

March 22, 2019

What Is It?

The heart has four valves – the aortic, mitral, tricuspid and pulmonary valves. Like valves used in house plumbing, the heart valves open to allow fluid (blood) to be pumped forward, and they close to prevent fluid from flowing backward. Human heart valves are flaps of tissue called leaflets or cusps.

Heart valve problems fall into two major categories:

  • Stenosis – The opening of the valve is too narrow, and this interferes with the forward flow of blood
  • Regurgitation – The valve doesn't close properly. It leaks, sometimes causing a significant backflow of blood.

Heart valve problems can be congenital, which means present at birth, or acquired after birth. A heart valve problem is classified as congenital when some factor during fetal development causes the valve to form abnormally. Congenital heart valve disease affects about 1 in 1,000 newborns. Most of these infants have stenosis of either the pulmonary or the aortic valve.

To continue reading this article, you must log in.

Subscribe to Harvard Health Online for immediate access to health news and information from Harvard Medical School.

  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »

I'd like to receive access to Harvard Health Online for only $4.99 a month.

Sign Me Up

Already a member? Login ».

Disclaimer:

As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.