How does the heart work?

How does the heart work?

The heart is a large muscle that has 4 main sections also known as the “chambers” of the heart.

  • Chambers are separated by heart valves that act as one-way doors to keep the blood moving in a forward directions (see image below).

  • Normally, blood will move forward through these valves that act as doors.

  • This allows blood to get oxygen from the lungs, and then leaves the heart to share the blood to the rest of the body.

  • If a valve does not work (e.g. a damaged from an infection), the blood may flow in a backward direction which is harmful to the body.

Any of these 4 valves can have bacteria attach to them causing them to become infected (known as infective endocarditis) or damaged.

For individuals who inject substances, the tricupsid valve is at risk of becoming infected and damaged from substances. When the tricuspid valve is damaged, it can push bacteria to the lungs which can be painful and worsen the heart infection (also called septic pulmonary emboli).

  • Sometimes more than one valve can be damaged or infected at the same time.

  • Abscesses can develop around the heart valves or in the heart muscle and cause an even more serious infection.

  • If the valve is badly damaged from an infection it can cause the heart to fail.

  • Surgery may be required to fix the valve to keep the heart working properly.