Mitral Valve Prolapse (MVP)
How does my mitral valve work?
The mitral valve is one of four heart valves. It is located in the left portion of your heart between the left upper and left lower chambers. The mitral valve has two flaps or leaflets. They are shaped like a parachute and are attached by strings. The mitral valve keeps your blood flowing in the right direction-from the upper to the lower chamber. When your mitral valve closes evenly there is no prolapse. In that way it blocks the blood from returning back to the left upper chamber (prevents leakage).
Mitral valve prolapse may be detected during cardiac auscultation and confirmed by an echocardiogram. In mitral valve prolapse, one or both valve leaflets are enlarged or their supporting strings are too long. As a result, when the lower chamber begins to pump, the mitral valve will collapse or prolapse backwards and will not close evenly. This sometimes lets a small amount of blood leak backward (mitral regurgitation) through the prolapsed valve. Mitral valve prolapse occurs in at about 10% of the population. However, it is much more common in tall, thin females, athletes, or patients with scoliosis. In most cases, no other heart disease is present and the exact cause for mitral valve prolapse is unknown. In some cases MVP may be inherited.
Some people with mitral valve prolapse may complain of “skipped beats” or palpitations while others may tire easily, complain of chest pain or shortness of breath. A small number of patients with mitral valve prolapse who complain of chest pain and palpitations may need to take medicine at least for a short period of time. Only in rare cases may mitral valve prolapse be serious or life threatening. Most people with mitral valve prolapse enjoy active lives without any type of restrictions. Antibiotics are no longer recommended before dental or surgical procedures.
Rarely, mitral valve prolapse may be associated with heart defects, coronary disease, disease of the heart muscle, inflammation of the heart, arrhythmias and Marfan’s syndrome.