What is mitral valve prolapse?
The mitral valve is one of four valves in the heart and it is located between the left upper chamber (left atrium) of the heart and lower left sided pumping chamber (left ventricle). (1) The mitral valve is made of two flaps or leaflets that open normally (2) to allow blood to flow from the left atrium to the left ventricle. The leaflets then normally close (3) when the left ventricle pumps blood out to the body to prevent blood from leaking back into the left atrium.
When mitral valve prolapse is present, there is backward bowing or billowing of one or both of the mitral leaflets into the left atrium while the left ventricle contracts. (4) The valve leaflets are often thicker and “floppier” than normal. Sometimes this billowing of leaflet(s) can prevent a tight valve closure and this may result in blood leaking back into the left atrium from the left ventricle. This is called mitral regurgitation.
As an international referral center for children with complex congenital heart disease, Michigan Medicine C.S. Mott Children's Hospital’s Congenital Heart Center is one of the largest and best pediatric heart programs in the United States. Michigan Medicine pediatric heart specialists offer state-of-the-art treatment and management of congenital heart conditions, including a comprehensive range of support services and long-term follow up care for children and their families. Our team has deep expertise caring for children with mitral valve disorders, from diagnosis through life-long follow up care.
Mitral Valve Prolapse Symptoms
Symptoms are rarely associated with mitral valve prolapse and most children have normal growth and development. Some patients with mitral valve prolapse may experience palpitations (heart skipping or racing) associated with mitral valve prolapse. Rarely, if there is significant valve leak (mitral regurgitation), symptoms may include fatigue, shortness of breath, cough, or exercise intolerance.
Mitral Valve Prolapse Diagnosis
Mitral valve prolapse is generally diagnosed during a physical examination while listening to the heart with a stethoscope. A characteristic “click” can be heard as one or both of the valve leaflets billow backward into the left atrium. If the valve also leaks there will be a heart murmur associated with the click. The definitive diagnosis is made by echocardiography, an ultrasound of the heart, which can assess the mitral valve leaflets to directly visualize whether the valve leaflet(s) are bowing backward into the left atrium (prolapsing) and whether the valve leaks. Other tests that may be ordered by a pediatric cardiologist include an electrocardiogram (EKG) to record the electrical activity of the heart. Lastly, mitral valve prolapse can be associated with connective tissue disorders such as Marfan syndrome.
Mitral Valve Prolapse Treatment
Mitral valve prolapse with no associated regurgitation (leakage) requires no treatment or intervention. Most children will require periodic follow up with a pediatric cardiologist to ensure there is no development of mitral valve leakage and no abnormal heart rhythms. If there is mitral regurgitation (leakage of blood backward through the mitral valve), this will require occasional echocardiograms and occasionally medicines may be prescribed to treat symptoms. In the rare case of severe mitral regurgitation associated with mitral valve prolapse, cardiac surgery may be recommended to try to repair the valve. If repair is not possible, some patients will require a mitral valve replacement with an artificial valve.
Life with Mitral Valve Prolapse
n general, a patient with mitral valve prolapse will live a completely normal life. Growth and development will be unaffected. Activity and sports participation will be unrestricted. Even with mitral regurgitation and symptoms, a normal lifestyle is the goal and expectation with appropriate treatment.
Why Choose C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital for Mitral Valve Prolapse Care?
Our multidisciplinary team of experts is highly skilled in all aspects of diagnosing and treating mitral valve disorders. Our team has extensive experience diagnosing, monitoring, and treating all types of mitral valve prolapse.
U-M’s Congenital Heart Center is uniquely positioned to care for congenital heart disorder patients from infancy through adulthood, as a children’s hospital directly attached to an adjacent top-ranked adult cardiovascular center.
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