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Mitral Regurgitation


What is mitral regurgitation?

The mitral valve is between the left atrium and left ventricle of your heart. The left atrium pumps blood into your left ventricle. The mitral valve opens to direct blood from your left atrium to your left ventricle. It closes when your left ventricle pumps blood to your body. Mitral regurgitation is when blood flows backward through the mitral valve. This happens because the mitral valve does not close properly.

What increases my risk for mitral regurgitation?

Mitral regurgitation is caused by damage or weakness of the mitral valve. Any of the following may increase your risk for these problems:

  • Older age
  • Being born with heart problems
  • Rheumatic fever or infection of the mitral valve
  • Heart attack, high blood pressure, or mitral valve prolapse
  • Injury to the mitral valve from trauma, a heart procedure, or radiation
  • A connective tissue disease such as lupus or Marfan syndrome
  • Certain medicines, such as weight loss pills or medicines that treat migraines

What are the signs and symptoms of mitral regurgitation?

You may not have symptoms or you may have any of the following:

  • Weakness, dizziness, or fatigue
  • Shortness of breath that gets worse during activity
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Cough, especially when you lie down
  • A fast heartbeat or feeling your heartbeat flutter
  • Swollen feet or ankles

How is mitral regurgitation diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine you and listen to your heart. Tell him if you have heart problems or take medicines to help you lose weight. You may need any of the following:

  • X-ray, CT, or MRI pictures may show problems with your valve or an enlarged heart. These tests may also show fluid in your lungs. You may be given contrast liquid to help the heart and lungs show up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.
  • An EKG test records the electrical activity of your heart. It is used to check for an abnormal heart rhythm caused by mitral regurgitation.
  • An echocardiogram is a type of ultrasound. It is used to show problems with your mitral valve and how blood flows through your heart. It may also show how well your heart is pumping. You may need a transthoracic or transesophageal echocardiogram. Ask your healthcare provider about these types of echocardiogram.
  • A stress test helps healthcare providers see how well your mitral valve works under stress. Healthcare providers may place stress on your mitral valve with exercise or medicine.
  • A cardiac catheterization is a procedure to check how well your heart is pumping blood. It is also used to measure pressure in different parts of your heart. Ask your healthcare provider for more information.

How is mitral regurgitation treated?

Treatment may not be needed if your condition does not cause symptoms. Medicine may be given to lower your blood pressure, decrease stress on your heart, or remove extra fluid. Your mitral valve may be repaired or replaced if it causes severe symptoms. This may be done through open heart surgery or a heart catheterization.

What are the risks of mitral regurgitation?

Mitral regurgitation may cause fluid to build up in your lungs. It may also cause an abnormal heartbeat. An abnormal heartbeat may increase your risk for blood clots. Mitral regurgitation may lead to heart failure if not treated.

How can I manage my symptoms?

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight can increase your risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, and coronary artery disease. These conditions can make your symptoms worse. Ask your healthcare provider how much you should weigh. Ask him to help you create a weight loss plan if you are overweight.
  • Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause lung and heart damage. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
  • Do not drink alcohol. Ask your cardiologist if it is safe for you to drink alcohol. Alcohol can increase your risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, and coronary artery disease.
  • Eat heart-healthy foods and limit sodium (salt). Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. Eat fewer canned and processed foods. Replace butter and margarine with heart-healthy oils such as olive oil and canola oil. Other heart-healthy foods include walnuts, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, and lean meats. Fatty fish such as salmon and tuna are also heart healthy. Ask how much salt you can eat each day. Too much salt can cause fluid to build up in your body. This can increase stress on your heart.
  • Exercise as directed. Exercise can help keep your heart healthy. Ask your healthcare provider what activities are safe for you to do. The amount and type of exercise that is safe may depend on how severe your condition is.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider about pregnancy. If you are a woman and want to get pregnant, talk to your healthcare provider. You and your baby may need to be monitored by specialists during your pregnancy.
  • Ask your healthcare provider if you should take antibiotics before certain procedures. Some procedures may allow bacteria to get into your blood and travel to your heart. This can make your condition worse.

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • You have any of the following signs of a heart attack:
    • Squeezing, pressure, or pain in your chest that lasts longer than 5 minutes or returns
    • Discomfort or pain in your back, neck, jaw, stomach, or arm
    • Trouble breathing
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Lightheadedness or a sudden cold sweat, especially with chest pain or trouble breathing
  • You cough up blood.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
  • Your heart is beating faster than usual and you feel fluttering in your chest.
  • You feel weak, dizzy, or faint.
  • You have new or worse swelling in your abdomen, legs, ankles, or feet.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have a fever.
  • You feel more tired than usual.
  • You are more short of breath than usual when you exercise or lie down.
  • You cough more than usual, especially when you lie down.
  • You are pregnant or think you are pregnant.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.