For the heart to work well, blood must flow in only one direction. The heart’s valves make this possible. Healthy valves open and close in a precise way as the heart pumps blood.
Each valve has a set of flaps called leaflets. The leaflets open to allow blood to pass from one heart chamber into another or into the arteries. Then the leaflets close tightly to stop blood from flowing backward.
Heart surgery is used to fix leaflets that don’t open as wide as they should. This can happen if they become thick or stiff or fuse together. As a result, not enough blood flows through the valve.
Heart surgery also is used to fix leaflets that don’t close tightly. This problem can cause blood to leak back into the heart chambers, rather than only moving forward into the arteries as it should.
To fix these problems, surgeons either repair the valve or replace it with a man-made or biological valve