Mitral valve prolapse (MVP) is when the heart valve separating the left atrium and the left ventricle does not close properly. In normal heart function, blood flows from the left atrium (receiving chamber) to the left ventricle (pumping chamber). The mitral valve closes just before the left ventricle squeezes and pumps blood forward. With MVP, one or both of the valve’s two tissue flaps (leaflets) may bulge backward into the atrium, sometimes allowing a backflow of blood. The good news is that most patients with the condition are only mildly affected, show no symptoms and don’t need treatment.
It was previously thought that anywhere from 5-20% of the population had some degree of MVP. Improved imaging technology has revealed that it may affect fewer than 5%. Research has also shown that up to twice or more times as many younger women may have the condition compared to men. However, although rare, most of the serious complications occur in men.
The causes of MVP are not fully understood. In some cases, the disorder is thought to be inherited. Although most patients have no symptoms, they may at times experience brief arrhythmias, palpitations or skipped heart beats – especially following exercise. In more serious cases, the condition can cause breathlessness, fatigue and cough, which may require mitral valve repair.
The condition is often diagnosed during a routine physical. Using a stethoscope, a physician can hear the valve leaflets create a “clicking” sound with each beat of the heart, and a murmur if the valve leaks. An echocardiogram can confirm the condition and reveal valve thickness, possible leakage and how serious it might be.While most patients won’t need treatment, your doctor may prescribe drugs such as beta blockers to treat palpitations or arrhythmias. Patients with severe mitral valve leakage (mitral regurgitation) may need to undergo valve repair. Cardiologists at MDCA are experts in diagnosing MVP and mitral regurgitation using echocardiography. If the heart rhythm atrial fibrillation develops, they are experts at using medical therapies and electrophysiologic therapies to treat this condition.