5 Facts You Should Know About Mitral Valve Prolapse - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on July 24, 2015

5 Facts You Should Know About Mitral Valve Prolapse

Crozer-Keystone Health SystemMedia Contact:
Mary Wascavage
(610) 284-8619

Your heart is made up of four chambers and four valves, which work together to keep blood flowing in the right direction and out of your heart to the rest of your body. But your heart muscle’s important role can sometimes be interrupted by a faulty valve – specifically the mitral valve.

Here are five things you should know about the mitral valve and what happens if it doesn’t work quite right.

The Mitral Valve is a One-Way Gate

“The mitral valve controls blood flow between the upper and lower chambers of the left side of your heart,” said Charles M. Geller, M.D., chief of cardiothoracic surgery for Crozer-Keystone Health System. The upper chamber is called the left atrium and the lower chamber is the left ventricle.

“The mitral valve allows blood to flow from the left atrium into the left ventricle, but not back the other way,” he said.

The Mitral Valve Sometimes Doesn’t Work Properly

The mitral valve, and all of the heart’s valves for that matter, is supposed to keep blood flowing in one direction. But sometimes when the left ventricle contracts, one or both of the flaps of the mitral valve bulge, or prolapse back, into the left atrium, Dr. Geller said. This is called mitral valve prolapse.

“This can prevent the valve from forming a tight seal. As a result, blood may leak from the ventricle back into the atrium,” he said. When this happens, it’s called regurgitation.

Some People Have a Higher Risk of the Condition

“Mitral valve prolapse can develop in any person at any age,” Dr. Geller said. “It can run in families and may be associated with conditions known as connective tissue disorders.”

Mitral Valve Prolapse Can Cause Symptoms

When backflow or regurgitation happens with mitral valve prolapse, it can cause shortness of breath, fatigue, dizziness, chest pain or irregular heartbeats called arrhythmias.

It Can Range in Severity

“Most people with mild mitral valve prolapse have no symptoms or medical problems and don't need any treatment,” Dr. Geller said. In these cases, doctors typically follow the condition to see if it worsens and needs treatment later on.

With less serious cases of mitral valve prolapse, a doctor may recommend medications to treat some of the symptoms, such as medications that lower blood pressure, treat heart rhythm problems or that help prevent blood clots, he explained.

However, more serious cases of mitral valve prolapse require treatment right away.

“If the prolapsing valve develops regurgitation and the regurgitation or leakage becomes significant, then it's important to have an appropriate evaluation and if surgery is required, to have that surgery before the leakage causes damage to the heart,” he said. If more serious cases are treated, this condition can weaken the heart and, over time, can lead to heart failure.

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