What Is Mitral Valve Prolapse?
The mitral valve controls the flow of blood from the heart’s left atrium to the left ventricle. Mitral valve prolapse is a condition in which the valve’s flaps (or leaflets) become enlarged or stretched. As the heart beats, the enlarged flaps bulge into the left atrium and can cause the valve to leak (mitral valve regurgitation).
Mitral valve prolapse is a lifelong disorder that affects approximately 3 percent of the population. Women are twice as likely to be diagnosed as men. Mitral valve prolapse can run in families and may be linked to several other conditions, including:
Mitral Valve Prolapse Symptoms
Mitral valve prolapse is not life-threatening and often exists without symptoms. If symptoms do develop, they may vary depending on the severity of the prolapse and include:
- Racing heartbeat: You’ll feel an irregular heartbeat, also known as cardiac arrhythmia.
- Dizziness: You’ll feel lightheaded.
- Difficulty breathing: You may have shortness of breath during exercise or when lying down.
- Fatigue: Physical exertion may cause you to feel extremely tired.
- Chest pain: You may have discomfort in your chest that is not caused by a heart attack or coronary artery disease.
Diagnosing Mitral Prolapse
Mitral valve prolapse is often noticed during a routine examination. Your doctor may hear a click or murmur in your heart. The clicking sound comes from stretched valve flaps “snapping” against each other. The murmur is the sound of blood leaking back into your left atrium.
Your doctor will order additional testing such as echocardiography and cardiovascular imaging techniques to diagnose mitral valve prolapse. The diagnostic testing used includes:
- Transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE)
- Electrocardiogram (ECG)
- Chest X-ray
- Stress test
Mitral Valve Prolapse Treatment at Penn Medicine
Most people with mitral valve prolapse will not need valve repair or replacement unless it causes severe mitral regurgitation. Whether your mitral valve prolapse is mild or severe, your treatment at Penn may include:
- Regular monitoring: Our cardiac team and expert imaging professionals monitor your disease progression during regular appointments. We’ll also educate you about how to prevent infective endocarditis, an infection that causes damage to heart valves.
- Medication: Your doctor may prescribe medications that will control your heart rate, drain fluid from your lungs and prevent blood clots to address uncomfortable symptoms like chest pain.
- Surgery: Approximately 10 to 15 percent of people with mitral valve prolapse require mitral valve surgery to repair the valve.