Quick Quiz: Do Quadricuspid Heart Valves Exist?
Since it is the Fourth of July weekend here in the United States, I thought it would be interesting to write a blog that connects the number “4” to heart valves. That said, here goes nothin’…
In the past, we’ve discussed the unique anatomy of heart valve leaflets – the tissue flaps that open and close in the valve to ensure that blood flows in one direction through the heart. While the aortic, tricuspid and pulmonary valves typically have three leaflets (also known as heart valve flaps), the mitral valve only has two leaflets. Here is a diagram of the human heart valves illustrating this point.
We have also discussed the genetic issues which produce irregular leaflet counts. For example, congenital bicuspid aortic valves have two leaflets which can severely compromise blood flow through the heart. And, we have also learned about extraordinary, patient stories in which heart valves are unicuspid – having only one heart valve leaflet. Remember Shannon’s unicuspid heart valve discovery?
This brings me to my heart valve trivia question of the day. That question is, “Do quadricuspid heart valves – valves with four leaflets – exist?” (To find out the answer, scroll below this image of a quadricuspid heart valve… Hint! Hint!)
Although rare, the picture above shows an actual aortic quadricuspid heart valve. If you look close enough, you can see four, distinct leaflets within the valve. So, yes! Quadricuspid valves do exist. Here is another picture that shows a heart valve with four tissue flaps.
So you know, I just exchanged emails with Nova, a patient preparing for quadricuspid aortic valve replacement.
I hope that helps you learn more about the variable leaflet structure of our heart valves – especially quadricuspid heart valves!!!
Keep on tickin!
Adam Pick is a patient, author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery and the founder of HeartValveSurgery.com.