Ask The Doctors: April 2010
The two functions of a heart valve are simple, but vital: to let blood flow forward without resistance, but also to prevent that same blood from leaking backwards. Inability to perform one or both of these functions can place a great deal of stress on the heart, sometimes leading to heart failure. "Stenosis" is the abnormal narrowing of an opened valve, while "regurgitation" is the abnormal back-leakage through a closed one. Heart valve malfunctions can be congenital (inborn), or acquired during life.