Hemolysis and thrombosis are among the most detrimental effects associated with mechanical heart valves. The strength and structure of the flows generated by the closure of mechanical heart valves can be correlated with the extent of blood damage. In this in vitro study, a tilting disk mechanical heart valve has been modified to measure the flow created within the valve housing during the closing phase. This is the first study to focus on the region just upstream of the mitral valve occluder during this part of the cardiac cycle, where cavitation is known to occur and blood damage is most severe. Closure of the tilting disk valve was studied in a “single shot” chamber driven by a pneumatic pump. Laser Doppler velocimetry was used to measure all three velocity components over a period encompassing the initial valve impact and rebound. An acrylic window placed in the housing enabled us to make flow measurements as close as away from the closed occluder. Velocity profiles reveal the development of an atrial vortex on the major orifice side of the valve shed off the tip of the leaflet. The vortex strength makes this region susceptible to cavitation. Mean and maximum axial velocities as high as and were recorded, respectively. At closure, peak wall shear rates of were calculated close to the valve tip. The region of the flow examined here has been identified as a likely location of hemolysis and thrombosis in tilting disk valves. The results of this first comprehensive study measuring the flow within the housing of a tilting disk valve may be helpful in minimizing the extent of blood damage through the combined efforts of experimental and computational fluid dynamics to improve mechanical heart valve designs.