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What is Mitral Regurgitation?

Article Details
  • Written By: J.M. Willhite
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 15 October 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Mitral regurgitation is a serious heart condition characterized by a valve dysfunction that allows for reversed blood flow through the heart. Aside from advanced age, contributory factors for the development of mitral regurgitation can include congenital heart disease and the regular use of some prescription medications. Treatment is determined by the severity of a patient's condition and overall health. If left untreated, mitral regurgitation can lead to arrhythmia development and heart failure.

When the heart is functioning normally, blood systematically circulates through its four chambers. Each chamber contains a valve that functions as a gateway, allowing the appropriate amount of blood to flow through at the precise time. By opening and closing completely, healthy valves will not allow for any disruption in circulation. In the presence of mitral regurgitation, the mitral valve does not open or close properly, allowing for blood to flow backward through that portion of the heart.

Mitral valve dysfunction may result from a prolapse that can occur with age or injury. Other conditions, including hypertension or the presence of infection, such as endocarditis, can adversely affect mitral valve function. Depending on the extent of the damage, a heart attack may also contribute to the development of mitral regurgitation.

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Most individuals who seek medical attention for cardiovascular issues will undergo an extensive consultation and physical exam with their family physician before being referred to a cardiologist. In the case of suspected mitral regurgitation, a battery of tests will generally be performed to thoroughly evaluate the condition and functionality of the heart muscle before a diagnosis may be made. Imaging tests, including an echocardiogram and electrocardiogram, may be conducted to assess the presentation and condition of the heart, the functionality of the mitral valve, and electrical conductivity of the heart muscle. Additional testing may include the administration of a cardiac catheterization, which involves the injection of a contrast dye to evaluate the circulation of blood through the heart.

Depending on the severity of a patient's condition, this type of valve dysfunction can cause a variety of signs and symptoms. Individuals will generally experience shortness of breath, pronounced fatigue with little to no physical exertion, and fluid retention. Considering mitral valve dysfunction is a progressive condition, symptoms will generally be mild and episodic initially, then become more pronounced and persistent with time. Additional signs of mitral regurgitation include heart palpitations, persistent cough, and frequent urination.

Most mild cases of this heart condition necessitate nothing more than regular monitoring for changes. If the condition is more pronounced, medications may be used to help manage symptoms. When mitral valve dysfunction requires surgical correction, an individual may have his or her mitral valve repaired or replaced, depending on the condition of the valve. If repair is not an option, the valve may be replaced with a prosthetic one made from either animal tissue or synthetic material, such as metal. Severe cases of mitral valve dysfunction may require open-heart surgery.

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