health matters

Health Talk: Mitral Valve Prolapse

What Mitral Valve Prolapse Is

Mitral (pronounced as my-trul) Valve Prolapse, or rather known as MVP, is a type of heart condition that occurs when the left upper chamber and left lower chamber of a patient’s heart doesn’t close properly or even its leaflets bulge back to the left atrium whenever the heart contracts. In another research, mitral valve prolapse is known to be the most common heart valve abnormality  which can be associated with fatigue or palpitations and is more prevalent in women than in men. Another term for this kind of condition is called as “click murmur syndrome” and “Barlow’s syndrome”.

This heart disease or condition sometimes prevents the backflow of blood from the left ventricle going to the left atrium, causing mitral valve regurgitation.

How is Mitral Valve Prolapse diagnosed?

Mitral valve prolapse can be diagnosed or detected by a doctor during a physical examination by listening to a patient’s heart through the use of a stethoscope. There are other possible ways of detecting or diagnosing a mitral valve prolapse:

1) Echocardiogram

     Echocardiogram is a 2D ultrasound type of test that uses high frequency sound waves to create images of the heart and its structures, including the mitral valve and the blood flow. A type of echocardiogram that may be used is the transesophageal echocardiogram in which a flexible tube is inserted or attached with a small device into the throat and down to the esophagus. This transesophageal cardiogram can create a clearer, detailed ultrasound images of a patient’s heart and the mitral valve.

2) Chest X-ray

 This type of test shows a picture of one’s heart, lungs , and blood vessels which helps the doctor make a diagnosis as well as show a patient if his or her heart is enlarged.

3) Electrocardiogram (ECG)

  A non-invasive type of test in which the probes are attached on a patient’s chest , recording the electrical impulses of that patient’s heart. The electrical signals recorded by the ECG helps the doctor detect or determine if there are any irregularities found in the patient’s heart rhythm and structure.

4) Stress test

  This type of test may be recommended by a doctor to check if there are any other conditions or if the mitral regurgitation limits a patient’s ability to exercise. In this kind of test, a patient exercises or takes some certain medication to increase his or her heart rate , making the heart to work harder.

5) Coronary andiogram and cardiac catheterization

   During this kind of test, a long , thin and flexible plastic tube or what we call catheter, is inserted into a patient’s groin , guiding it to the heart area through use of X-ray imaging, followed by dye injection into the blood vessel which makes them visible under the X-ray imaging or known as coronary andiogram.

What Causes Mitral Valve Prolapse?

Mitral valve prolapse (MVP) most often occurs when the blood flow from the left ventricle going to the left atrium is being prevented or obstructed whenever it contracts or squeezes. This type of disesase might also be hereditary or run on through families, or there may be unknown causes as well.

What are the symptoms of MVP?

Mitral valve prolapse may be associated with these symptoms:

1) Racing or irregular heartbeats (arrhythmia)

2) Dizzy spells or light headedness

3) Shortness of breath, even when lying flat or doing a physical activity

4) Fatigue

5) Chest pain (not caused by heart attack or CAD)

6) Palpitations

7) Fainting or syncope

8) Panic and anxiety

9) Numb sensation or tingling in hands and feet

What are the possible complications caused by MVP?

There are or maybe some possible complications caused by a mitral valve prolapse. These complications may include:

1) Mitral valve regurgitation

    The most common complication wherein the valve regurgitates or leaks the blood back to the left atrium. Male beings having an increase of blood pressure are most likely at risk of this condition.

2) Heart rhythm problems/arrhythmias

  Arrhythmias are most likely to occur or happen to people experiencing mitral valve prolapse. This occurs in the upper chambers of the heart, although this may be bothersome for patients, they are not considered as life-threatening.

However, patients with severe mitral regurgitation or deformity are at risk of having serious heart rhythm problems, affecting the blood flow of the heart

3) Endocarditis

A type of complication in which the heart valve is infected, affecting its inner lining. This is caused by an abnormal mitral valve from bacteria, further increasing the risk of mitral valve damage. Patients of this type of complication are usually older men.

When is it best to seek a doctor?

Suspecting you may or might be having a mitral valve prolapse? It’s best to seek a doctor and make an appointment. But there are some things needed to do before making an appointment with your doctor like writing down the symptoms you are experiencing (even though it’s irrelevant to mitral valve prolapse), writing down key personal information (e.g. family history of heart disease, heart defects, genetic disorders, etc.) , making a list of medications you’re taking, preparing to discuss your diet/exercise habits, or even writing down some questions that you may ask your doctor during the said appointment.

Some basic questions (related to mitral valve prolapse) that you may ask your doctor are:

  • What causes my symptoms or condition?
  • What are the other possible causes of these symptoms or condition?
  • What tests do I need to take?
  • What kinds of treatment do I need?
  • Are there any alternatives to the primary approaches suggested?
  • What restrictions do I need to follow?
  • Is there any specialist I should seek?

And so on..

 You might also be expecting your doctor to ask you these questions:

  • When was the first time you experienced the symptoms?
  • Have they been continuous or occasional?
  • How severe are these symptoms?
  • What seems to improve your symptoms?
  • What seems to worsen your symptoms?

Treatments and Medications

Not all patients with mitral valve prolapse are required to undergo treatments. Some may only be required to return to the doctor for a follow up examination or checkups but it only depends on the severity of their condition. A doctor may also prescribe some medications to take for the condition.

A. Medication

1) Beta- blockers
    This medication may help prevent irregular heartbeats by making a patient’s heart beat more slowly, reducing the blood pressure, allowing the blood vessels to relax and open up, improving the flow of blood.

2) Diuretics
 This medication is prescribed by a doctor as it reduces or drains fluid from the lungs. It’s also known as “water pill” .

3) Heart rhythm medications
 Medications prescribed by the doctor for heart rhythm control include flecainide (Tambocor), procainamide (Procanbid), sotalol (Betapace), or amiodarone (Cordarone, Pacerone).

B. Treatment

A doctor may require or recommend a surgical treatment for those with severe mitral valve regurgitation.

1) Valve repair – a preferred surgical treatment that helps preserve a patient’s own valve and corrects the condition.

2) Valve replacement – a type of surgical treatment that is performed by replacing a damaged mitral valve with an artificial or prosthetic valve.


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