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Valvular heart disease refers to several disorders and diseases of the heart valves, which are the tissue flaps that regulate the flow of blood through the four chambers of the heart.
The human heart consists of four chambers—two upper chambers (the atria) and two lower chambers (the ventricles)—that are responsible for pumping blood. The heart valves are like one-way doors, which open and close with each beat of the heart, controlling the blood flow from one chamber to the next. Each of these valves is made up of a few thin folds of tissue. When functioning correctly, they keep blood from flowing backwards into a chamber when closed.
The four valves function in the following manner:
Patients with valvular heart disease have a malfunction of one or more of these valves. There are several types of valvular heart diseases with distinct symptoms and treatments. These are:
Certain types of heart disease can lead to one of the specific conditions listed above. These include rheumatic fever and infective inflammation of the heart (endocarditis). Multivalvular heart disease refers to a condition involving more than one of the heart valves.
Author Info: Teresa Norris RN, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit, Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, 2002
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