We present comprehensive particle image velocimetry measurements and direct numerical simulation (DNS) of physiological, pulsatile flow through a clinical quality bileaflet mechanical heart valve mounted in an idealized axisymmetric aorta geometry with a sudden expansion modeling the aortic sinus region. Instantaneous and ensemble-averaged velocity measurements as well as the associated statistics of leaflet kinematics are reported and analyzed in tandem to elucidate the structure of the velocity and vorticity fields of the ensuing flow-structure interaction. The measurements reveal that during the first half of the acceleration phase, the flow is laminar and repeatable from cycle to cycle. The valve housing shear layer rolls up into the sinus and begins to extract vorticity of opposite sign from the sinus wall. A start-up vortical structure is shed from the leaflets and is advected downstream as the leaflet shear layers become wavy and oscillatory. In the second half of flow acceleration the leaflet shear layers become unstable and break down into two von Karman-like vortex streets. The onset of vortex shedding from the valve leaflets is responsible for the growth of significant cycle-to-cycle vorticity oscillations. At peak flow, the housing and leaflet shear layers undergo secondary instabilities and break down rapidly into a chaotic, turbulent-like state with multiple small-scale vortical structures emerging in the flow. During the deceleration and closing phases all large-scale coherent flow features disappear and a chaotic small-scale vorticity field emerges, which persists even after the valve has closed. Probability density functions of the leaflet position during opening and closing phases show that the leaflet position fluctuates from cycle to cycle with larger fluctuations evident during valve closure. The DNS is carried out by prescribing the leaflet kinematics from the experimental data. The computed instantaneous vorticity fields are in very good agreement with the measurements, especially during the accelerating phase when the flow remains coherent and repeatable and instantaneous comparisons are meaningful. The computed results are analyzed to elucidate for the first time the intricate and highly three-dimensional structure of the pulsatile jet through the triple-opening orifice of the bileaflet valve and explain the rich flow phenomena documented in the two-dimensional vorticity measurements.