Problem: Mitral Valve Prolapse

Illustration of a Prolapsed Valve

What is mitral valve prolapse (MVP)?

Mitral valve prolapse is a condition in which the two valve flaps of the mitral valve do not close smoothly or evenly, but instead bulge (prolapse) upward into the left atrium. Mitral valve prolapse is also known as click-murmur syndrome, Barlow's syndrome or floppy valve syndrome.

What happens during MVP?

Regurgitation animation

When the heart pumps (contracts) part of one or both flaps collapse backward into the left atrium. In some cases, the prolapsed valve lets a small amount of blood leak backward through the valve, which may cause a heart murmur.

Watch an animation of mitral valve prolapse.

Is mitral valve prolapse dangerous?

In most cases, it’s harmless. Most people who have the condition are unaware of it and their health is not affected. However, in some cases treatment is required.

What causes MVP?

The most common cause of MVP is abnormally stretchy valve leaflets (called myxomatous valve disease). Mitral valve prolapse occurs in around 2 percent of the population. A person can be born with the genetic risk of developing MVP or it can be caused by other health problems, such as some connective tissue diseases.

How is mitral valve prolapse detected?

Because most patients with MVP do not experience symptoms, a murmur may be detected during a routine physical examination when a healthcare provider uses a stethoscope to listen to the heart. Common symptoms include bursts of rapid heartbeat (palpitations), chest discomfort and fatigue.

What should I do if a murmur is detected?

Even for those who are not experiencing symptoms, if a murmur is detected suggesting mitral valve prolapse, an echocardiogram, or echo, is usually recommended. The echo uses ultrasound to evaluate the characteristics of the valve cusps and how much blood may be leaking (regurgitation) from the valve when the heart contracts. Other tests may include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or angiogram. The test results and extent of your symptoms will guide your healthcare provider in determining if further testing is indicated. 

Does mitral valve prolapse need to be treated?

In many instances, having MVP will not impact your health and requires no treatment. Talk with your healthcare provider about how best to prevent complications from MVP based on your level of risk. If you are prescribed medication, take it as directed.

People with an abnormal mitral valve may need mitral valve repair or replacement if:

  • Symptoms are getting worse
  • The left ventricle of the heart is enlarged
  • The heart function gets worse

MVP very rarely becomes a highly serious condition. However, in the most serious cases, mitral valve prolapse can cause abnormal heartbeats (arrhythmias) that may eventually become life-threatening.

When valve prolapse is severe enough to cause significant valve leakage, it can lead to serious complications like stroke. This happens because a mitral valve leaking (regurgitating) a significant amount of blood can cause blood clots to form. When clots travel from the heart to the arteries or the brain, it can lead to a stroke or heart attack.

Know the signs and symptoms of heart attack and stroke.

Is there a need for people with MVP to take antibiotics prior to having dental procedures?

The routine use of antibiotics before having a dental procedure is no longer recommended by the American Heart Association for patients with mitral valve prolapse regardless of whether or not they have any associated symptoms.

Understanding your heart valve problem: Which solution may be right for you?

Heart valve treatment explorer screenshot

Walk through a step-by-step interactive guide explaining your valve issue and treatment options with helpful videos, text summaries and links along the way.

Additional resources:

Heart Valve Disease Resources

Find out more about your heart valves and how to manage heart valve disease.

Learn about Bicuspid Aortic Valves and Mitral Valve Prolapse
Dr. Robert Bonow on Heart Valve Disease

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