A Patient's Guide to Heart Surgery
Valves of the Heart
The schematic diagram below illustrates the four valves of the heart and how they are oriented within the heart. The heart valves in reality are not in this simplified orientation, but the diagram serves to show the valves and their relationship to each other.
The heart is generally thought of as having a right and left side. In reality, the heart is one organ and not divided into two separate organs. The heart is made up of four chambers, two on the right and two on the left. The chambers are known as atria and ventricles. Each side of the heart is composed of one atrium and one ventricle. The atria are the receiving chambers of the heart, receiving blood flowing back to the heart. The ventricles are the chambers of the heart that pump the blood out of the heart.
The valves of the heart are located within the chambers of the heart and are critical to the proper flow of blood through the heart. All of the valves, when functioning normally, act as one-way valves, allowing blood to flow either from one chamber to another, or allowing blood to flow out of the heart, in only one direction. The valves control the flow of blood through the heart by opening and closing during the contractions of the heart. The opening and closing functions of the valves are controlled by pressure differences generated within the heart, as well as some muscles located within the heart.
The four valves are known as:
- The tricuspid valve
- The pulmonic or pulmonary valve
- The mitral valve
- The aortic valve
The easiest way to understand how the valves work with each other is to describe the flow or circulation of blood through the heart, which cannot be done without describing the location and function of the valves.