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Mitral Valve Disease

The normal heart has two upper and two lower chambers. The upper chambers called “right and left atrium” collect blood flowing in from the body and in from the lungs. The lower chambers called “ventricles” collect blood from the atria then pump it forcefully out. The right ventricle pumps out to the lungs while the left ventricle pumps to the aorta.

The heart valves, which keep blood flowing in the right direction, are gates at the chamber openings. Each of these valves have flaps (cusps) that open and close once during each heartbeat. The mitral valve is one of the two main valves on the left side of your heart. The mitral valve has two flaps. When the heart pumps, blood forces the flaps open, and blood flows from the left atrium to the left ventricle. Between heartbeats, the flaps (cusps) close tight. In mitral valve disease, the mitral valve may not be closing properly, which causes blood to leak backward to the left ventricle (regurgitation), the valve may be narrowed (stenosis), or the valve’s flaps may bulge outward (prolapse).

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Mitral Valve Disease Mitral valve prolapse

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Causes of Mitral Valve Disease

Mitral valve disease has many causes. Some forms of mitral valve disease can be present at birth (congenital). However, other conditions, traits or habits may also raise your risk for the disease. These are known as risk factors and include:

Non-Modifiable Risk Factors: These factors are irreversible and cannot be changed. The more of these risk factors you have, the greater your chance of developing mitral valve disease.

  • Older age
  • Family history/Genetics
  • History of certain infections that can affect the heart.
  • History of certain forms of heart disease or heart attack.

Modifiable Risk Factors: These factors can be modified, treated or controlled through medications or lifestyle changes.

  • Long history of cigarette smoking and/or drug abuse.

Other conditions that contribute to the development of mitral valve disease:

Symptoms of Mitral Valve Disease

Some people with mitral valve disease might not experience symptoms for many years. But when symptoms do appear, they may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Heart arrhythmias
  • Heart murmur
  • Shortness of breath, particularly when you have been very active or when you lie down.
  • Swelling of the ankles and feet.

Diagnosis of Mitral Valve Disease

To diagnose mitral valve disease, your doctor may review your signs and symptoms, discuss your and your family's medical history, and conduct a physical examination. Your doctor may listen to your heart with a stethoscope to determine if you have a heart murmur that may indicate a mitral valve condition. Your doctor may also order several tests to diagnose your condition and determine the cause and severity of your condition, including:

Treatment of Mitral Valve Disease

Treatment of mitral valve disease depends on the severity of your condition, whether you're experiencing signs and symptoms, and if your condition is getting worse. If your symptoms are mild or you aren't experiencing symptoms, your doctor may monitor your condition with regular follow-up appointments. Other treatment options include:

Lifestyle Changes

All patients with heart valve disease should talk to their doctor about the managed risk of getting infective endocarditis. This infection can greatly damage or destroy the heart valves, and can be fatal. Recommended changes include:

  • Call your doctor if you have symptoms of an infection.
  • Take antibiotics before any dental procedures, surgeries, or invasive tests.
  • Take good care of your teeth and gums.
  • Tell your doctor and dentist that you have heart valve disease.
  • Avoid smoking.
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet.
  • Exercise under the directions of your doctor.
  • If you're overweight, talk to your doctor about weight-loss options.
  • Manage stress.
  • Make an keep appointments to see your doctor for routine check-ups and follow-up tests.


  • Antiarrhythmic medications will help control your heart’s rhythm.
  • Anticoagulants “blood-thinners” will help treat, prevent, and reduce blood clots.
  • Beta blockers will help reduce your blood pressure.
  • Diuretics “water pills” will help reduce the amount of fluid retention in your body.

Medical and Surgical Procedures

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Patient Stories

  • A retired SWAT team member is as good as new after a mitral valve repair.

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Patient Stories

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Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center
94 Old Short Hills Road
Livingston, NJ 07039
(973) 322-5000
Newark Beth Israel Medical Center
201 Lyons Avenue at Osborne Terrace
Newark, NJ 07112
(973) 926-7000
Jersey City Medical Center
355 Grand Street
Jersey City, NJ 07302
(201) 915-2000
Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
1 Robert Wood Johnson Place
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
(732) 828-3000

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