Roles of Your Four Heart Valves

Illustration of Valves of the Heart

To better understand your valve condition and to help prepare you to understand everything your healthcare provider will discuss, it helps to know the role each heart valve plays in providing healthy blood circulation. Every part of the circulatory system must work together to deliver blood, oxygen and nutrients to all tissue.

What are the four heart valves? What role does each play in healthy circulation?

Here are the four valves in order of circulation:

  1. Tricuspid Valve
    • Closes off the upper right chamber (or atrium) that holds blood coming in from the body.
    • Opens to allow blood to flow from the top right chamber to the lower right chamber (or from right atrium to right ventricle).
    • Prevents the back flow of blood from the ventricle to the atrium when blood is pumped out of the ventricle.

    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 an animation of heart valve anatomy.

    • Closes off the lower right chamber (or right ventricle).
    • Opens to allow blood to be pumped from the heart to the lungs (through the pulmonary artery) where it will receive oxygen.

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

  3. Mitral Valve
    • Closes off the upper left chamber (or left atrium) collecting the oxygen-rich blood coming in from the lungs.
    • Opens to allow blood to pass from the upper left side to the lower left side (or from the left atrium to the left ventricle).

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

  4. Aortic Valve
    • Closes off the lower left chamber that holds the oxygen-rich blood before it is pumped out to the body.
    • Opens to allow blood to leave the heart (from the left ventricle to the aorta and on to the body).

    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 that the right amount of blood can pass through.
  • The valve closes tightly so that no blood leaks back into the chamber.

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The Basics of Heart Circulation

Understanding Heart Valves and the Four Systems in the Heart

Heart Valves Are for Life