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What Is Mitral Stenosis?

Mitral stenosis is the narrowing of the mitral valve, which controls the flow of blood from the heart’s left atrium to the left ventricle. The left ventricle is your heart’s main pumping chamber. When your mitral valve isn’t functioning correctly, blood and pressure build up, the left atrium enlarges, and fluid enters the lungs.

The most common cause of mitral valve stenosis is rheumatic fever — a complication of strep throat. This infection can scar the mitral valve, causing it to narrow. While rheumatic fever is rare in the United States, it is still common in developing countries. Other causes of mitral stenosis are age (calcium deposits build up on the valve), radiation to the chest, congenital heart defects and autoimmune diseases like lupus.

Mitral Stenosis Symptoms

Mitral valve stenosis progresses slowly over time. You may not notice symptoms for years. If symptoms do develop, they may include:

  • Shortness of breath: You may have a hard time breathing, especially after being active or when you lie down.
  • Fatigue: You may tire easily during increased physical activity.
  • Swollen ankles and feet: Swelling may occur when blood flow is disturbed.
  • Heart palpitations: You may notice a rapid, fluttering heartbeat.
  • Fainting or dizziness: You may feel lightheaded or even lose consciousness, especially during activity.
  • Coughing up blood: If you see signs of blood when you cough, see your doctor.
  • Chest pain: You might feel discomfort in your lungs and chest.

Your doctor may detect signs of mitral valve stenosis during an examination including:

Diagnosing Mitral Valve Stenosis

If you have symptoms associated with mitral stenosis, your doctor will use echocardiography and cardiovascular imaging techniques including:

  • Transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE)
  • Transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE)
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)
  • Chest X-ray
  • Mitral Stenosis Treatment at Penn Medicine

    While no medications can correct mitral valve stenosis, your doctor may prescribe medication to address your symptoms. If your cardiologist determines that you need a mitral valve replacement or repair, Penn offers both surgical and nonsurgical options, including:

    Penn Programs & Services for Mitral Stenosis

    Doctor writing on clipboard
    Heart Valve Disease

    Surgeons and cardiologists use innovative catheter-based procedures and minimally invasive surgery to repair and replace heart valves.

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