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Oral & maxillofacial surgery

UNDERSTANDING THE HEART AND ITS VALVES

A healthy heart, which beats about 100,000 times a day, supplies the body with oxygen-rich blood. The heart is a muscular organ that has four chambers. Blood is pumped through the four chambers with the help of four heart valves - the aortic valve, the pulmonic valve, the mitral valve, and the tricuspid valve. During an average lifetime, these valves will open and close over two billion times. Heart valves open when the heart pumps to allow blood to flow. They close quickly between heartbeats to make sure the blood does not flow backward. Any trouble with this normal flow will make it hard for the heart to pump the blood where it needs to go. The aortic valve controls the flow of blood as it exits the heart and is pumped to the rest of the body.

VALVE DISORDERS

Sometimes, these hardworking valves can run into problems that can cause issues with blood flow and threaten overall health. Stenosis, more specifically aortic stenosis (AS), is a narrowing of the aortic valve opening. It can be caused by age, genetic predisposition, rheumatic fever, radiation and/or build-up on the leaflets of calcium, cholesterol (fat), etc. This results in stiff valve leaflets that don't move easily or open fully. This decreases the pumping ability of the heart to push blood through the aortic valve to your body. Left untreated, severe AS can lead to heart failure or even sudden death. Regurgitation happens when the valve has become damaged or worn out and blood is able to leak backwards. This makes the heart work harder to circulate the blood, and, if left untreated, can result in heart failure.