What is Mitral Valve Reflux?

Mary McMahon

Mitral valve reflux is a phenomenon where blood is leaked back into the left atrium from the left ventricle when the heart beats. On the next beat, the heart has to work harder to push the leaked blood back out. Over time, this can lead to severe complications for the patient, including thickening of the heart muscle and heart failure. There are a number of different treatment options available, depending on the underlying cause of the mitral valve reflux.

The mitral valve is located inside the heart between the atria and the ventricles.
The mitral valve is located inside the heart between the atria and the ventricles.

Also known as mitral regurgitation, this condition happens when the mitral valve separating the left atrium and ventricle does not close all the way. In healthy individuals, the components of the valve create a tight seal, preventing blood from backing up through the valve when the heart beats. People with a weakened or prolapsed mitral valve will develop mitral valve reflux. This condition can be more common in people who are overweight and out of shape.

Care for mitral valve reflux may be supervised by a cardiologist.
Care for mitral valve reflux may be supervised by a cardiologist.

Medical imaging studies can be used to see what is happening inside the heart when it beats. The heart of a patient with mitral valve reflux will show that some blood is being squeezed in the wrong direction through the normally closed valve. If the condition has been going on for a long time, the heart may be noticeably thickened. The patient may also experience symptoms like shortness of breath and chest pain.

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Sometimes, medication can treat the cause of the mitral valve reflux and resolve the problem. The patient may need some time to adjust and allow the medication to work. In other cases, the recommended treatment is surgery. In surgery, the valve can be repaired or replaced, or a pump can be fitted to help the patient's heart function. The recommended treatment varies, depending on the severity of the symptom, the cause, and the patient's general level of physical health.

Care for mitral valve reflux is usually supervised by a cardiologist, a doctor who specializes in diagnosis and treatment of heart conditions. The cardiologist can refer the patient to a surgeon if this is deemed necessary. Patients may receive better treatment outcomes by going to clinics specializing in cardiac care, as the care providers there see high volumes of patients and are very familiar with the ins and outs of heart problems and their complications. It can be helpful to receive a second opinion from another specialist while deciding on how to move forward with treatment and management of symptoms like mitral valve reflux.

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