Mitral Valve Prolapse

Mitral valve prolapse occurs when one of the valves of the heart does not work properly. The mitral valve is the valve between the upper and lower left chambers of the heart. When this valve does not close properly, it causes a condition known as mitral valve prolapse. Mitral Valve prolapse often causes no symptoms and is usually not a serious condition. However, it may sometimes cause blood to flow backward into the upper left chamber or left atrium of the heart. This back flow of blood is referred to as mitral valve regurgitation. Most people are born with mitral valve prolapse and this condition is often hereditary.

Symptoms of Mitral Valve Prolapse

Most people with mitral valve prolapse do not experience any symptoms or complications. Symptoms that do appear are often the result of mitral valve regurgitation. Symptoms may include:

  • Arrhythmia, a racing or irregular heartbeat
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Headache
  • Fatigue

Some individuals with mitral valve prolapse experience chest pain or discomfort.

Causes of Mitral Valve Prolapse

The exact cause of mitral valve prolapse is not known, and most people are born with the condition. For some people with mitral valve prolapse, the flaps of the mitral valve have extra tissue which causes the valve to balloon back to the left atrium. Mitral valve prolapse tends to run in families and may be more prevalent in people with Marfan syndrome, certain types of muscular dystrophy, Grave's disease and scoliosis.

Diagnosis of Mitral Valve Prolapse

Many people do not know they have a mitral valve prolapse and it is often diagnosed accidentally during a routine physical exam. The doctor initially listens to the heart using a stethoscope, and the following diagnostic tests may be used to confirm a diagnosis of mitral valve prolapse:

  • Echocardiogram
  • Ultrasound
  • Coronary angiogram
  • Chest X-ray
  • Electrocardiogram
  • Cardiac catheterization

A stress test may also be administered to determine if mitral valve regurgitation limits the patient's ability to exercise or perform physical activities.

Treatment of Mitral Valve Prolapse

Often, no treatment is necessary for patients with mitral valve prolapse who do not experience any symptoms. If individuals also experience mitral valve regurgitation and a significant amount of blood is leaking through the mitral valve, the following treatment may be recommended:

  • Beta blockers
  • Aspirin
  • Blood thinners
  • Heart rhythm medications

In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to repair or replace heart valves. Without treatment, severe mitral valve regurgitation can eventually cause heart failure, preventing the heart from effectively pumping blood.

Additional Resources