What is Mitral Valve Disease?

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  • Written By: Madeleine A.
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 21 July 2019
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Mitral valve disease refers to abnormal conditions of the mitral valve, such as mitral valve prolapse, mitral regurgitation, and mitral stenosis. The mitral valve of the heart consists of the annulus, leaflets, and chordae, which is the structure that attaches the mitral valve leaflets to their corresponding muscles. A normal mitral valve allows blood to freely flow between the atrium and ventricle, however, when this blood flow is impinged upon, symptoms such as rapid heartbeat and dizziness can occur. Physicians used to recommend that patients with mitral valve disease receive antibiotics prior to having dental work or surgery, however, most believe that this protocol is no longer necessary.

Typically, mitral regurgitation occurs as a result of blood leaking from the left ventricle. The blood then flows into the left atrium during the systolic period, causing backflow. This condition is not uncommon and diagnosis can be made with echocardiography, a diagnostic medical imaging procedure that uses sound waves to get images of the beating heart. This technique not only views normal structures of the heart, it can also show abnormalities in blood flow and structural abnormalities of vessels. This type of mitral valve disease can sometimes mimic other cardiac conditions, so when symptoms such as angina or irregular heart beat occur, further evaluation is often necessary.


Mitral valve prolapse is also a common form of mitral valve disease that also can be diagnosed via the echocardiogram. In addition, a mitral valve prolapse can sometimes be diagnosed simply by listening to the heart with a stethoscope. When listening to the heart, the physician may detect a heart murmur, which is frequently attributed to a mitral valve prolapse. A prolapsed mitral valve causes the flaps of the heart to close abnormally, thus the characteristic murmur sound. Mitral valve prolapse can cause chest pain, dizziness, and lightheadedness, although it frequently has no symptoms.

When mitral valve disease causes symptoms, treatment generally includes the use of beta blockers. These medications slow down the rate of a rapid heartbeat and can significantly reduce the frequency and severity of chest pain. In addition, patients who have mitral valve disease are sometimes instructed by their physicians to take aspirin or other blood-thinning medication to avoid the risk of blot clots. When the heart beats irregularly, as it can with mitral valve disease, blood flow is impeded, potentially causing it to stagnate and clot. This can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke and always needs to be treated.



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