Heart Valve Flaps – What Are They? How Do They Work?

I just received a question from Laura which asks, “My mom was recently diagnosed with a mitral valve regurgitation problem. During her discussion with the cardiologist, he said that her valve flaps were not closing tightly and causing a leak. What exactly does this mean?”

Understanding heart valve anatomy is critical to better understanding the diagnosis of heart valve disease and the surgical steps required to fix the problem. That is why this question about heart valve flaps is such a great inquiry.

Heart valve flaps are also known as heart valve leaflets. The flaps, or leaflets, are composed of tissue. The flaps sole purpose is to open-and-close tightly to secure that blood flows through the heart in one direction. Each heart valve has three (3) heart valve flaps, except for the mitral valve which has two (2) heart valve flaps. Below you can see two diagrams of the human heart* with the white valve flaps in the opened and closed position.

When the flaps fail to seal properly, heart valve disease can occur and a symptomatic heart murmur can develop. There are several different types of heart valve disease caused by faulty valve functioning. In some cases, the heart valve flaps can suffer from calcium-deposit build-up, known as valve calcification.

Personally, I suffered from two, heart valve flap issues which triggered severe aortic valve stenosis and my need for aortic valve replacement. My aortic valve was bicuspid AND it was calcified. FYI, here is a picture of a calcified aortic valve (bicuspid). You can see that the aortic valve flaps are fused bicuspid and there are white calcium deposit on the leaflet tissue.

Bicuspid Aortic Valve With Calcium Deposits

I hope that helps explain more about heart valve flaps.

Keep on tickin!

Adam Pick
Written by Adam Pick

Adam Pick is a patient, author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery and the founder of HeartValveSurgery.com.

To learn how Adam has helped millions of people with heart valve disease, watch Adam's video, subscribe to his free newsletter, or visit his Facebook, or Twitter pages.

  • tom lamont

    Adam… would you please post something regarding the risks of mitral valve surgical repair using the robotic surgery system ve traditional surgical methods. I understand the benefits. Are the risks any greater with robotic surgery?
    Thank you, Tom Lamont

  • Winona Blake

    Hi Tom,
    I have been feverishly researching for the same information since recently being told I need MV repair. Some sources say that the robot assisted technique has not proven itself. After I hear from Cleveland Clinic, I will have a second opinion at Brigham Women’s in Boston, where they do not offer robot assisted, so I will hear the other side of the equation there. Will share that info when I get it.
    Winona

  • Marta Novotny

    My echocardiogram came back fine but the nurse said the flaps were open a little a very minor problem nothing to worry about,but of course I am worried I get arrythmia & I am on medication for it,also I was born with a short circuit of the heart but I am mainly worried about the flaps. Can you explain this to me? Thank You

  • crystal

    Hello. So i recently went to my cardiologist doctor for my
    check up. And she told me that she barely found a a little flap in my heart. And she said its nothing to worry about. But is it really something to , not really worry, but still think about ? Will it get worst as i grow? Be a problem a in a few years? And is it something to do with being overweight? Because to be honest im not really skinny but not obeast . But is it still a factor to that little non-worrysome flap? I just need a second opinion. And since i had a heart mumrmur when i was young , a heart murmur that soon needed surgery and patch put over it, yeah a second opion would help. And becausei get so tired out when i ride my bike for a few mins. And i dont know if its because im out of shape or that non worry some flap. It was just a random thought this morning.

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