Roles of Your Four Heart Valves

Illustration of Valves of the Heart

To better understand your valve condition and what your health care provider will discuss, it helps to know the role each heart valve plays in healthy blood circulation. Every part of the circulatory system must work together to deliver blood, oxygen and nutrients to all tissues.

What role does each play in healthy circulation?

The four valves in order of circulation are:

  1. Tricuspid Valve
    • Has three leaflets or cusps.
    • Separates the top right chamber (right atrium) from the bottom right chamber (right ventricle).
    • Opens to allow blood to flow from the right atrium to the right ventricle.
    • Prevents the back flow of blood from the right ventricle to the right atrium.

    Related valve problems include: tricuspid atresia, tricuspid regurgitation, tricuspid stenosis

  2. Pulmonary Valve (or Pulmonic Valve)

    Heart valve anatomy animation(link opens in new window)

    Watch a heart valve anatomy animation.

    • Has two leaflets.
    • Separates the right ventricle from the pulmonary artery. 
    • Opens to allow blood to be pumped from the right ventricle to the lungs (through the pulmonary artery) where it will receive oxygen.
    • Prevents the back flow of blood from the pulmonary artery to the right ventricle.

    Related valve problems include: pulmonary valve stenosis, pulmonary valve regurgitation

  3. Mitral Valve
    • Has two leaflets.
    • Separates the top left chamber (left atrium) from the bottom left chamber (left ventricle).
    • Opens to allow blood to be pumped from the lungs to the left atrium. 
    • Prevents the back flow of blood from the left ventricle to the left atrium.

    Related valve problems include: mitral valve prolapse, mitral valve regurgitation, mitral valve stenosis

  4. Aortic Valve
    • Has three leaflets, unless it's abnormal from birth, i.e., bicuspid aortic valve.
    • Separates the left ventricle from the aorta.
    • Opens to allow blood to leave the heart from the left ventricle through the aorta and the body.
    • Prevents the backflow of blood from the aorta to the left ventricle.

    Related valve problems include: aortic regurgitation (also called aortic insufficiency), aortic stenosis

Essentials for properly working valves

  • The valve is properly formed and flexible.
  • The valve should open all the way so the blood can pass through.
  • The valve should close tightly so no blood leaks backwards into the chamber.

 


The Basics of Heart Circulation
Understanding Heart Valves and the Four Systems in the Heart
Heart Valves Are for Life