• The Heart House

Mitral Valve Prolapse

Remember when you were 18 years old and you started having left-sided chest pains? Your pains felt as if someone was stabbing you. They were very painful and at one time you may even have screamed with pain. This pain may have happened while you were watching TV. At one time you thought your heart raced fast. You may have seen a heart doctor who listened to your heart and told you that you have a mild degree of Mitral Valve Prolapse. Your doctor assured you that the pains are really not severe and not a heart attack. The pains may have bothered you from time to time, but you didn't pursue the matter any further.

Now your 14 year-old daughter is complaining of similar pains and you remember when you were younger and you were diagnosed with Mitral Valve Prolapse. Could she be experiencing the same thing?

The Mitral Valve

Let's talk a little about the Mitral Valve itself. The Mitral Valve is the valve that guards the blood coming from the Left Atrium to the Left Ventricle. It is like a door with two sides. The leaflets of the Mitral Valve (cusps) are attached via tiny, fibrous cords to a larger muscle called the Papillary Muscle (it looks like a nipple). The Papillary Muscle is really part of the heart wall.

The Mitral Valve normally works as follows:

When the Left Atrium is full of blood, the heart muscle in the Left Ventricle relaxes so the muscles attached to the Mitral Valve open. When the Left Ventricle is full of blood the heart muscle tenses (contracts) and the Mitral Valve closes shut.

Here's how Mitral Valve Prolapse occurs:

Mitral Valve Prolapse occurs if the two Mitral Valve leaflets bulge into the Left Atrium more than they should. They bulge (herniate) or prolapse into the Left Atrium and put tension on the muscles to which they are anchored (Papillary Muscle). When this happens you may start having pains. These pains can be severe.

In extreme cases of Mitral Valve Prolapse the little cords which attach the Mitral Valve to the muscle of the heart may come under high tension and they may rupture. This will interfere with the normal closure of the Mitral Valve and leakage from the Mitral Valve will occur into the Left Atrium (Mitral Valve Regurgitation). Luckily this condition does not happen often.

How Common is Mitral Valve Prolapse?

Mitral Valve Prolapse is a very common condition and cardiologists differ in how many people are actually affected. It is almost agreed upon that about 10% of women in the United States have some mild degree of Mitral Valve Prolapse. Severe Mitral Valve Prolapse is rare.

How Serious is Mitral Valve Prolapse?

The condition is benign. It usually causes some chest pains which cause alarms. With some people these pains can be very frequent which can affect their lifestyle. The majority of times they are well tolerated. Usually your doctor will prescribe a medication called Tinorman which is a kind of beta blocker to prevent the pain associated with this condition.

However, if your valve is leaking, your doctor may prescribe that you receive Propylaxis and Biotex before you go to the Tilt Up Table Test.

To learn more about the Tilt Up Table Test, click here.

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Children's Heart Institute

P. O. Box 10066 McLean, VA 22102

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