What is the mitral valve?

The mitral valve is one of four valves within the heart. It opens, allowing blood to flow from the left atrium (collecting chamber of the heart) to the left ventricle (pumping chamber of the heart) and then closes to prevent blood from flowing backward. Mitral regurgitation occurs when the mitral valve does not close completely, allowing some blood to flow backward into the left atrium and increasing pressure inside the lungs, which can lead to shortness of breath.

What are common mitral valve diseases?

  • Mitral valve regurgitation – occurs when the mitral valve does not close completely, allowing some blood to flow backward into the left atrium of the heart
  • Mitral valve stenosis – a stiffening of the valve between the heart’s upper and lower left chambers that prevents it from opening properly
  • Mitral valve prolapse – the process of the mitral valve not closing properly; it’s one of a few possible causes for mitral valve regurgitation
  • Complex congenital heart defects – a congenital heart defect is a condition that occurs when the heart – or blood vessels near the heart – does not develop normally before birth
  • Hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy – a thickening of the heart walls

Mitral valve disease symptoms

Many people may not notice any symptoms, and you may not know you have mitral valve prolapse until a doctor hears a heart murmur or a “clicking” sound when listening to your heart. If this happens to you, your doctor may order an echocardiogram to further examine your heart for mitral valve prolapse.

Symptoms of various mitral valve diseases include:

  • Shortness of breath even when you’re resting or not very active; this may start as shortness of breath with activity and later develop into shortness of breath even at night
  • Feeling very tired and/or weak
  • A buildup of fluid in the legs and feet, called edema, with mitral valve regurgitation
  • Heart pounding, or palpitations, with mitral valve stenosis

Besides an echocardiogram, tests to help diagnose mitral valve diseases include electrocardiograms (EKG, ECG) to look for abnormal heart rhythms, chest X-rays to examine heart size and cardiac catheterization.

Causes of mitral valve disease

Mitral valve diseases have many causes. Some forms can even arise as congenital heart defects present at birth.

Mitral valve regurgitation can be caused by a problem with the anatomy of the mitral valve, making it unable to close tightly. This can happen because of different issues, such as calcium buildup on the valve, but it can also be caused by mitral valve prolapse. Mitral valve prolapse is caused by a physical change in the valve, such as thickening or abnormal shapes, but the cause for these physical changes isn’t known.

Mitral valve regurgitation can also be caused by another heart problem, such as heart failure, that causes the valve to not close tightly enough. Acute mitral valve regurgitation, which develops quickly and can be life-threatening, happens when the valve or tissues near it rupture suddenly, causing blood to build up quickly in the left side of the heart. Heart attack and endocarditis can cause acute mitral valve regurgitation.

Mitral valve stenosis is nearly always caused by rheumatic fever, which results from an untreated strep infection. Many people who have mitral valve stenosis, however, don’t know that they ever had rheumatic fever.

Why Ohio State is the best hospital for heart valve care

The Ohio State Heart and Vascular Center is a leader in the treatment of heart valve diseases. We offer the most advanced treatments, including minimally invasive procedures and access to ground-breaking clinical trials testing new devices and treatment options.

We have assembled a team of experts including interventional cardiologists, cardiac surgeons, dedicated nursing staff and other specialists, to ensure that you receive the most comprehensive care available.

Our team can evaluate your condition and provide treatment options for youwhether this is your initial consultation or you are looking for a second opinion. Our advanced treatment options are giving new hope to patients who previously were not considered candidates for treatment due to advanced age or other conditions. Our patients are cared for in the world-class Richard M. Ross Heart Hospital.
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