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Mitral valve prolapse

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Mar 11, 2022.

Overview

Mitral valve prolapse is a type of heart valve disease that affects the valve between the left heart chambers. The flaps (leaflets) of the mitral valve are floppy. They bulge backward (prolapse) like a parachute into the heart's left upper chamber as the heart squeezes (contracts).

Mitral (MY-trul) valve prolapse sometimes causes blood to leak backward across the valve, a condition called mitral valve regurgitation.

Usually, mitral valve prolapse isn't life-threatening and doesn't require treatment or lifestyle changes. But some people may need medications or surgery, especially if the prolapse causes severe regurgitation.

Other names to describe mitral valve prolapse include:

Mitral valve prolapse and regurgitation

The mitral valve separates the two chambers (atrium and ventricle) of the left side of the heart. In mitral valve prolapse, the leaflets of the mitral valve bulge (prolapse) into the left atrium like a parachute during the heart's contraction. Sometimes mitral valve prolapse causes blood to leak back into the atrium from the ventricle, which is called mitral valve regurgitation.

Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of mitral valve prolapse are due to the amount of blood leaking backward through the valve.

Mitral valve prolapse symptoms can vary widely from one person to another. Many people with mitral valve prolapse don't have noticeable symptoms. Other people may have mild symptoms that develop gradually.

Symptoms of mitral valve prolapse may include:

When to see a doctor

If you have symptoms of mitral valve prolapse, make an appointment with your health care provider. Many other conditions can cause similar symptoms.

If you're having sudden or unusual chest pain or think you're having a heart attack, seek emergency medical care immediately.

If you've been diagnosed with mitral valve prolapse, see your provider if your symptoms worsen.

Causes

To understand the causes of mitral valve disease, it may be helpful to know how the heart works.

The mitral valve is one of four valves in the heart that keep blood flowing in the right direction. Each valve has flaps (leaflets) that open and close once during each heartbeat. If a valve doesn't open or close properly, blood flow through the heart to the body can be reduced.

In mitral valve prolapse, one or both of the mitral valve leaflets have extra tissue or stretch more than usual. The leaflets can bulge backward (prolapse) like a parachute into the left upper heart chamber (left atrium) each time the heart contracts to pump blood.

The bulging may keep the valve from closing tightly. If blood leaks backward through the valve, the condition is called mitral valve regurgitation.

Risk factors

Mitral valve prolapse can develop in any person at any age. Serious symptoms of mitral valve prolapse tend to occur most often in men older than 50.

Mitral valve prolapse can occur in families (be inherited) and may be linked to several other conditions, including:

Complications

Potential complications of mitral valve prolapse may include:

Diagnosis

To diagnose mitral valve prolapse, your health care provider will usually do a physical exam and listen to your heart with a stethoscope.

If you have mitral valve prolapse, a clicking sound may be heard through the stethoscope. If blood is leaking backward through the mitral valve, a whooshing sound (heart murmur) also may be heard.

Tests

Tests that may done to help confirm mitral valve prolapse and evaluate the heart include:

Treatment

Most people with mitral valve prolapse, particularly people without symptoms, don't require treatment.

If you have mitral valve regurgitation but don't have symptoms, your health care provider may recommend regular checkups to monitor your condition.

If you have severe mitral valve regurgitation, medications or surgery may be needed even if you don't have symptoms.

Medications

Medications may be needed to treat irregular heartbeats or other complications of mitral valve prolapse. Medications include:

Surgery and other procedures

Most people with mitral valve prolapse don't need surgery. But surgery may be recommended if mitral prolapse causes severe mitral valve regurgitation, whether or not you have symptoms.

Surgery for a diseased or damaged mitral valve includes mitral valve repair or mitral valve replacement. Mitral valve repair is preferred because it saves the existing valve.

Valve repair and replacement may be done using open-heart surgery or minimally invasive surgery. Minimally invasive surgery involves smaller incisions and may have less blood loss and a quicker recovery time.

During mitral valve repair surgery, the surgeon might remove excess tissue from the prolapsed valve so the flaps can close tightly. The surgeon may also replace the cords that support the valve. Other repairs may also be done.

If mitral valve repair isn't possible, the valve may be replaced. During mitral valve replacement surgery, a surgeon removes the mitral valve and replaces it with a mechanical valve or a valve made from cow, pig or human heart tissue (biological tissue valve).

Sometimes, a heart catheter procedure is done to place a replacement valve into a biological tissue valve that no longer works well. This is called a valve-in-valve procedure.

Self care

If you have mitral valve prolapse, you'll have regular follow-up appointments with your health care provider to monitor your condition.

It's also important to take steps to keep your heart healthy.

Preparing for your appointment

Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment.

What you can do

For mitral valve prolapse, some basic questions to ask your health care provider include:

Don't hesitate to ask any questions you have.

What to expect from your doctor

Your health care provider is likely to ask you questions, such as:

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