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Mitral Valve Regurgitation

Heart valves perform like one-way doors, opening and closing to allow blood to move forward while preventing blood from flowing back into the heart. When the heart’s mitral valves do not close sufficiently, blood can leak from the pumping chamber back into the atrium, which is known as mitral valve regurgitation. As the leak progresses, the heart may become enlarged, causing the condition to worsen and the heart to become less efficient. Over time, it can lead to heart failure. Mitral valve regurgitation is one of the most common valve problems in the United States.

Causes of Mitral Valve Regurgitation

The condition can be caused by congenital heart deficiencies, atrial fibrillation, rheumatic fever, myocardial infarction (heart attack), problems with the valve leaflets and others.

Symptoms of Mitral Valve Regurgitation

Mild cases of mitral valve regurgitation may not become symptomatic until the condition worsens.
Even severe regurgitation may have few symptoms until your heart is weakened. As the valve disease progresses, the most common symptom is new onset shortness of breath during normal activities, such as climbing stairs or walking long distances. You could experience any or all of the following:

  • Activity intolerance
  • Heart "fluttering" or palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing;
  • Swelling of hands and feet

Treatment of Mitral Valve Regurgitation 

While the condition is still mild, your health care provider may prescribe medications to reduce symptoms, which can help prevent the progression of the mitral valve regurgitation. Currently, there are no medications to reverse the condition. If the disease progresses or becomes severe, your health care provider may recommending surgery, which may include repairing or replacing the valve, depending on your unique condition.

Mitral Valve Prolapse

Mitral valve prolapse occurs when the leaflets of the mitral valve do not close properly and bulge (prolapse) into the left upper chamber (left atrium). This condition is common and only rarely progresses to cause blood to flow backwards into the left atrium (mitral valve regurgitation).

Symptoms of Mitral Valve Prolapse

If you have mild mitral valve prolapse, you may not experience any symptoms unless your condition worsens or causes leakage, resulting in mitral valve regurgitation. Mitral valve prolapse is often detected on an echocardiogram (an ultrasound of the heart) or from a characteristic “click-murmur” during a physical examination when a health care provider listens to the heart. The majority of patients with this condition do not progress, but should nonetheless be closely followed.

Repairing or Replacing the Mitral Valve

Modern valve operations emphasize repairing over replacing the valve whenever possible. Repairing the valve can provide longer lasting results over an artificial valve and carries a lower surgical risk, especially when performed minimally invasively. If the heart valve cannot be repaired, minimally invasive approaches are available for mitral valve replacement, including robotic, endovascular, transcatheter and traditional surgeries.

At the Heart Valve Center at Chester County Hospital, you will be seen and evaluated by a multidisciplinary team, and receive testing, advanced treatment, and follow-up care right here in your community. You will also have access to the latest devices and procedures through Penn Medicine hospitals in Philadelphia, PA including MitraClip® and CardiAQ while still receiving follow-up care close to home.

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