Mitral Valve Prolapse - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Heart Valve Disease

The heart valves control the flow of blood between the heart chambers and between the left ventricle and the major artery that supplies the body's blood vessels with blood-containing oxygen. Heart valve disease occurs when the valve(s) does not close completely, causing the blood to flow backward through the valve, or the valve(s) opening becomes narrowed, limiting the flow of blood out of the ventricles or atria. Some valve defects can be treated with medicine, while others may be repaired or replaced surgically.

Types of Heart Valve Disease

Mitral Valve Prolapse

Mitral valve prolapse is the bulging of one or both of the mitral valve flaps into the left atrium during the contraction of the heart. One or both of the flaps may not close properly, allowing the blood to leak backward. This is called regurgitation and may result in a murmur or abnormal sound in the heart due to turbulent blood flow.

Mitral valve prolapse may not cause any symptoms; however, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may vary depending on the degree of prolapse present and may include palpitations and chest pains.

Depending on the severity of the leak into the left atrium during systole (mitral regurgitation), the left atrium and/or left ventricle may become enlarged, leading to symptoms of heart failure. These symptoms include weakness, fatigue and shortness of breath.

Mitral Valve Stenosis

Often caused by a past history of rheumatic fever, this condition is characterized by a narrowing of the mitral valve opening, increasing resistance to blood flow from the left atrium to the left ventricle.

Aortic Valve Stenosis

This type of valve disease occurs primarily in the elderly and is characterized by a narrowing of the aortic valve opening, increasing resistance to blood flow from the left ventricle to the aorta.

Pulmonary Stenosis

This condition is characterized by a pulmonary valve that does not open sufficiently, causing the right ventricle to pump harder and enlarge.

Bicuspid Aortic Valve

This is a congenital birth defect characterized by an aortic valve that has only two flaps, instead of three. If the valve becomes narrowed, it is more difficult for the blood to flow through, and often the blood leaks backward. Symptoms usually do not develop until adulthood.

Diagnosing Heart Valve Disease

Heart valve disease may be suspected if the heart sounds heard through a stethoscope are abnormal. This is usually the first step in diagnosing a heart valve disease. A characteristic heart murmur (abnormal sounds in the heart due to turbulent blood flow across the valve) can often indicate valve regurgitation or stenosis.

To further define the type of valve disease and extent of the valve damage, doctors may use any of the following diagnostic procedures:

  • Electrocardiogram (EKG): An EKG is a recording of the heart’s electrical activity which can show different rhythms that provide clues to symptoms and potential problems.
  • Echocardiogram: This noninvasive test uses sound waves to evaluate the motion of the heart's chambers and valves and determine how well the heart is pumping.
  • Transesophageal Echocardiogram (TEE): During a TEE, the patient’s throat is numbed and an endoscopic probe is swallowed, providing a close-up image of the heart; patients remain conscious, but are sedated for their comfort during the procedure.
  • Chest X-ray: This common diagnostic test can show enlargement in any area of the heart.
  • Cardiac Catheterization: Cardiac catheterization enables physicians to see the coronary arteries and heart valves, showing narrowed or blocked arteries, defective valves or other problems.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): A diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body.

Treating Heart Valve Disease

Treatment varies, depending on the type of heart valve disease, and may include one, or a combination of, the following:

  • Medication: Medications are not a cure for heart valve disease, but in many cases are successful in the treatment of symptoms caused by heart valve disease.
  • Heart Valve Repair or Replacement: Heart valve repair or replacement surgery is a treatment option for valvular heart disease. When heart valves become damaged or diseased, they may not function properly.

Schedule an Appointment

To learn more about heart valve disease or request an appointment, please call 1-866-95-PULSE (1-866-957-8573) or request an appointment online.