Mitral Valve Prolapse: Causes, Complications, And Treatment


Blood returns to your heart from every part of your body. It flows into the organ’s right side through the vena cavae. It leaves the right side and travels to your lungs where it is replenished with oxygen. Newly enriched with oxygen, blood flows into your heart’s left side before leaving the organ in order to be circulated throughout your body.

Your mitral valve (MV) is one of four valves that help regulate the flow of your blood as it moves through your heart. It is located between your left atrium (one of two upper chambers) and left ventricle (one of two lower chambers). This particular valve can experience problems that affect the flow of blood between these two chambers. One such problem is called mitral valve prolapse (MVP).

In this article, we’ll provide a brief overview regarding the causes and potential complications of MVP. We’ll also explain how mitral valve repair addresses the disorder.

Possible Causes Of The Disorder

If the MV is working as it should, its two leaflets (or, flaps) close after blood flows through it into your left ventricle. When the leaflets close, the opening becomes sealed, thereby preventing blood from flowing back into your left atrium. With prolapse, one of the two leaflets is too large and bulges back into the atrium whenever your heart beats. As a result, the opening between your atrium and ventricle does not seal off properly. Blood is allowed to flow back into the upper chamber.

The causes of MVP are unknown, though experts have speculated the disorder is related to Marfan syndrome (a condition in which your body’s connective tissue is irregular). Other possible causes include a specific type of kidney disease and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. Often, patients are born with a “floppy” mitral valve.

Potential Complications That Can Arise

Prolapse may be severe or minor. Most patients who have the disorder suffer few if any symptoms. That said, when the condition is severe, it can cause a number of complications, especially in those who are older.

The most common byproduct of prolapse is regurgitation. This is a condition, as already described, in which blood flows from your left ventricle into your left atrium because the opening is not properly sealed. In severe cases of regurgitation, you may be exposed to potential heart failure.

Another side effect of prolapse is an arrhythmia. There is far less danger inherent with arrhythmias than a severely regurgitant mitral valve, though your doctor will probably want to monitor it over time.

Prolapse can also lead to endocarditis. This is an infection of your endocardium, a membrane that forms a lining between your heart’s chambers and valves. MVP may allow bacteria to infect this lining.

How Is The Disorder Treated?

Depending on the severity of the condition, your doctor may prescribe one or more medications to treat the symptoms. For example, beta blockers can help reduce an arrhythmia while aspirin and anticoagulants can help prevent the formation of blood clots.

For patients who are suffering from severe MVP, surgery may be necessary to correct the disorder. A surgeon can either choose to repair the malfunctioning mitral valve or replace it. The latter approach is usually reserved for circumstances in which mitral valve repair is not feasible. If surgery is possible, the surgeon may perform a triangular resection or chordal transfer, depending on which of the two leaflets is abnormal.

Open heart surgery was once necessary to perform mitral valve repair. Today, a minimally invasive approach is commonly taken. There is less postoperative pain and a faster recovery period. If you suffer from a malfunctioning mitral valve that is causing severe problems, ask your physician whether a triangular resection or chordal transfer is an option.