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Mitral Valve Prolapse

What is mitral valve prolapse?

Mitral valve prolapse (MVP) is a common, usually benign heart disorder. The mitral valve controls blood flow between the upper (atrium) and lower (ventricle) chambers on the left side of the heart. Normally, blood should only flow in one direction, from the upper chamber into the lower chamber. In MVP, the valve flaps don't work properly; part of the valve balloons into the atrium, which may be associated with blood flowing in the wrong direction, or leaking back into the atrium.

In most cases, the cause of MVP is unknown. In some cases, it appears to be an inherited genetic condition. Rarely, MVP may be caused by:

  • Rheumatic fever
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Atrial septal defects

What are the symptoms?

People with mitral valve prolapse often have no symptoms at all. But the most common symptoms of mitral valve prolapse are:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Fatigue
  • Chest pain
  • Panic attacks or anxiety
  • Rapid heart beat (palpitations)
  • Sensation of missed heart beats
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Intestinal problems (such as irritable bowel syndrome)

Mitral valve prolapse can be heard through a stethoscope. A small blood leakage will sound like a murmur. When the mitral valve balloons backward, it may produce a clicking sound. Both murmurs and clicks are telltale signs of MVP. An echocardiogram can confirm the diagnosis. You may also be asked to wear a Holter monitor for a day or two to continuously record the electrical activity of your heart (EKG).

How is it treated?

In most cases, no treatment is necessary.

  • Medications. Although no longer routinely recommended, you may need to take antibiotics prior to some dental and medical procedures. This is to prevent infections. Ask your doctor if you will need to take antibiotics. If symptoms include chest pain, anxiety, or panic attacks, a beta-blocker medication can be prescribed. Ask your doctor whether you may continue to participate in your usual athletic activities.
  • Surgery. In very rare cases, the blood leakage may become severe. In these few cases, the mitral valve may need to be surgically repaired or replaced. 
  • Lifestyle modifications. You may be able to prevent symptoms through certain lifestyle changes, such as limiting your intake of caffeine, avoiding certain medications (such as decongestants) that speed up your heart rate, and exercising regularly as recommended by your doctor.

What is Lee Health's approach?

Lee Health provides the most advanced valve repair/replacement surgeries and treatments using a multidisciplinary approach. Lee Health regularly handles the most complex cases in the region with excellent outcomes.

Lee Health is a leader in the use of robotic surgery for valve replacement. Robotic surgery makes it possible to perform valve surgery through smaller incisions with greater control and accuracy. Lee Health was the first in the region to perform valve surgery with robotic assistance.

Who should I contact?

If you have symptoms of mitral valve prolapse contact your doctor. If you do not have a doctor, call Lee Physician Group at 239-481-4111 or our cardiothoracic surgery group at 239-343-6341.