Mitral Valve Disease

If you have been diagnosed with a mitral valve problem, you’ll be glad to know that the Northwest Regional Heart & Vascular Center is home to one of Portland’s most experienced surgeons in treating this condition, Thomas Molloy, MD.

To help you understand what mitral valve disease is and why treatment is so important, here’s an overview:

What is the mitral valve?

The mitral valve is a valve that lets blood flow from one chamber of the heart (the left atrium) to another chamber called the left ventricle, and prevents it from flowing backward. It’s also referred to as the bicuspid valve because it consists of two tapered flaps, or leaflets.

What is mitral valve disease?

There are two main types of mitral valve disease:

  • Mitral valve regurgitation, in which the leaflets do not close tightly, allowing blood to leak backward (regurgitate) into the left atrium
  • Mitral valve stenosis, in which the mitral valve leaflets become thick or stiff, or even fuse together, resulting in a narrowed valve opening and reduced blood flow

What causes mitral valve disease?

  • Mitral valve prolapse – The most common cause of mitral valve regurgitation, this is when the flaps bulge back into the left atrium, preventing the valve from closing tightly.
  • Rheumatic fever – A complication of untreated strep throat
  • Damaged tissue cords – The tissue cords anchor the flaps of the mitral valve to the heart wall, and can stretch or tear over time
  • Heart attack – This can damage the part of the heart muscle that supports the mitral valve, impairing valve function
  • Endocarditis – An infection of the lining of the heart
  • Cardiomyopathy – An abnormality of the heart muscle
  • Trauma – An accident can damage the valve
  • Congenital heart defects – Defects that are present from birth
  • Certain medications – Prolonged use of certain drugs, such as those containing ergotamine (used to treat migraines), can cause mitral valve regurgitation

What are the symptoms of mitral valve disease?

  • Shortness of breath with exertion or when you lie down
  • Fatigue, especially during increased activity
  • Chest pain
  • Coughing
  • Heart palpitations (a fast, fluttering heartbeat)
  • Swollen feet or ankles
  • Dizziness or fainting

Why treatment of mitral valve disease is necessary

Left untreated, mitral valve disease can lead to heart failure, atrial fibrillation, pulmonary hypertension, heart enlargement, blood clots or lung congestion (pulmonary edema).

Learn more about the treatment options for mitral valve disease that are available at Northwest Regional Heart and Vascular Center.