Mitral Valve Prolapse

Overview

What is the mitral valve?

Your heart has four chambers (or "rooms"). The mitral valve controls the flow of blood between 2 of the chambers, called the left atrium and the left ventricle. Normally, when the heart relaxes in between beats, the 2 flaps of the mitral valve swing open to let blood flow from the atrium to the ventricle. The flaps normally open only one way and the blood only flows one way.

What is mitral valve prolapse?

If you have mitral valve prolapse, the flaps of the mitral valve don’t work properly. One of the flaps moves back into the atrium when the heart beats. When this happens, blood can flow backwards, from the ventricle back into the atrium.

About 1 in 20 Americans has mitral valve prolapse. People are usually born with it. More women have it than men.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of mitral valve prolapse?

Most people don’t know that they have mitral valve prolapse until a doctor finds it during a physical exam. Some people may have symptoms that include the following:

  • Feeling like your heart is racing or is skipping beats

  • Chest pain that comes now and then

  • Shortness of breath

  • Dizziness

  • Anxiety or panic

Diagnosis & Tests

How do I know that I have mitral valve prolapse?

Usually, your doctor will find mitral valve prolapse during a regular exam. When listening to your heart with a stethoscope, your doctor may hear the flap of your mitral valve make a clicking sound. If blood is flowing back into the atrium, your doctor will hear a "whooshing" sound. This sound is called a murmur.

To find out how well your valve is working, your doctor may have you get an echocardiogram. The echocardiogram provides a picture of your heart that shows your valve as the blood flows through it. This can help your doctor decide if you need treatment.

Treatment

How is mitral valve prolapse treated?

Most people who have mitral valve prolapse don’t need any treatment. Only about 2 of every 100 people who have this condition have complications. Your doctor will tell you if you need treatment.

Some people who have mitral valve prolapse have to limit participation in competitive sports. If your mitral valve prolapse causes chest pain or other symptoms, your doctor might prescribe medicines such as beta blockers to make your symptoms better. Some people need surgery to fix the valve.

In serious cases of mitral valve prolapse, infection (called bacterial endocarditis) can occur in the valve after surgery or dental work. If you have mitral valve prolapse, check with your doctor before dental work (including professional teeth cleaning) or other medical procedures. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics prior to the procedure to protect against infection.

Other Organizations

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

  • How did I get mitral valve prolapse? Was I born with it?

  • Is it life threatening?

  • Do I need to make any changes to my lifestyle, such as diet or exercise?

  • What are some symptoms that would indicate my condition is getting worse?

  • Am I at risk for bacterial endocarditis?

  • If so, what kind of medical or dental procedures put me at risk for infection?

  • Will I need antibiotics before I have one of these procedures?

Citations

  • Current Management of Mitral Valve Prolapse by DP Bouknight, MD; RA O’Rourke, MD( 06/01/00, http://www.aafp.org/afp/20000601/3343.html)