The flow of blood pumped by the heart is controlled by one-way valves. These valves assure that blood moves in only one direction. Mitral regurgitation occurs when the heart's mitral valve leaks blood into the upper chamber from the lower chamber.
If the amount of blood that leaks is severe, mitral regurgitation can be serious. The sooner it is treated, the better the outcome.
Mitral Valve Regurgitation
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Mitral regurgitation may be caused by: Mitral valve prolapse—Abnormal closure of the valve with protrusion of a leaflet tip backward into the left atrium, causing it to leak.
Infections that cause scarring of the heart valve, such as
Damage from a
Several different types of
congenital heart defects, which can
affect mitral valve function.
Cardiomyopathies—Diseases that weaken the heart muscle and stretch the mitral valve.
The speed with which symptoms progress closely follows the cause of mitral disease. Acute diseases cause rapid decline, while more chronic diseases lead to slower onset of symptoms.
Mitral regurgitation may cause: Chronic, progressive fatigueShortness of breath, especially with exertionWorsening shortness of breath when you lie down
New, associated palpitations or racing heart rate, which may suggest the development of a
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Leaking heart valves usually make sounds called murmurs that can be heard through a stethoscope. You will likely be referred to a cardiologist.
Imaging tests evaluate the heart and surrounding structures. These can be done with: Chest x-rayEchocardiogramCardiac catheterization
(EKG) can measure your heart's electrical activity.
Treatment options depend on the severity and history of the valve leakage and its effects on the heart’s size and function. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:
Correcting the underlying problem may help the mitral valve function. The treatment depends on the symptoms. In chronic and slowly progressive mitral regurgitation, medications may help reverse effects on the heart’s size. Ultimately, surgery will likely be needed. In acute and rapidly declining disease, the benefit of medications is limited to short term stabilization until emergency surgery occurs.
There are several open heart surgical procedures that can fix leaking valves. The type chosen will depend on the valve and the expert recommendation of the surgeon. The valve may be repaired, if it is an option, or it will be replaced.
To help reduce your chance of getting mitral regurgitation:
Prevent cardiovascular disease by controlling weight and
blood pressure, exercising, eating heart-healthy foods, and watching your
Avoid contact with streptococcal diseases including
scarlet feverGet prompt treatment for infectionsAvoid IV drug useLimit alcohol intake
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Last reviewed August 2014 by Michael J. Fucci, DO
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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