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Problems With Heart Valves

The heart valves are also susceptible to problems.  Each valve has a set of flaps (also called leaflets or cusps).  When working properly, the heart valves open and close fully.  Two major problems occur with valves, stenosis and regurgitation.

Stenotic valves are those that close down, making the flow of blood between chambers difficult.  Aortic stenosis, for example, is a condition in which the valve regulating the blood flow as it leaves the heart and enters the aorta will not open fully.  Valve regurgitation is a condition in which the valve leaks.  Leaking valves cause blood to move backward in the heart, limiting the effectiveness of the pump.

A person can be born with an abnormal heart valve, a type of congenital heart defect.  Or a valve can become damaged by infections such as infective endocarditis, rheumatic fever, or changes in valve structure in the elderly.  People with congenital heart valve defects may need medical treatment with drugs.  Some valve defects may be repaired with surgery.