Ricker Polsdorfer, MD
The flow of blood pumped by the heart is controlled by one-way valves. These valves assure that blood moves in only one direction. Mitral regurgitation occurs when the heart's mitral valve leaks blood into the upper chamber from the lower chamber.
If the amount of blood that leaks is severe, mitral regurgitation can be a serious condition that requires care from your doctor. The sooner it is treated, the better the outcome. If you suspect that you have this condition, contact your doctor right away.
There are several causes for leaky heart valves. Birth defects can deform them. Infections can scar them. Heart attacks can damage them. The mechanics of an enlarged heart can stretch out the opening so that the valve is no longer large enough to work effectively.
Factors that may increase your chance of developing mitral regurgitation include:
The speed with which symptoms progress closely follow the cause of mitral disease. Acute diseases cause rapid decline, while more chronic diseases lead to slower onset of symptoms. The following symptoms may be caused by mitral regurgitation:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Leaking heart valves usually make sounds called murmurs that can be heard through a stethoscope. You will likely be referred to a cardiologist.
Images may need to be taken of your heart. This can be done using:
Treatment options depend on the severity and history of the valve leakage and its effects on the heart’s size and function. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:
Correcting the underlying problem may help the mitral valve function. The treatment depends on the symptoms. In chronic and slowly progressive mitral regurgitation, medications may help reverse effects on the heart’s size. Ultimately, surgery will likely be needed. In acute and rapidly declining disease, the benefit of medications is limited to short term stabilization until emergency surgery occurs.
There are several open heart surgical procedures that can fix leaking valves. The type chosen will depend on the valve and the expert recommendation of the surgeon. The valve may be repaired, if it is an option, or it will be replaced.
To help reduce your chance of getting mitral regurgitation, take the following steps:
American Heart Association
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Canadian Cardiovascular Society
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
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Last reviewed March 2014 by Michael J. Fucci, DO
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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