Let's Talk Medicine

What is a Mitral Valve Prolapse?

Mitral valve prolapse is a condition in which the mitral valve doesn’t close correctly. This valve sits between the two left chambers of the heart—the left atrium and left ventricle. Instead of snapping shut when the left ventricle contracts, the valve bulges backward (prolapses). This lets blood leak backward from the left ventricle to the left atrium, making the heart work harder.

This usually doesn’t cause any problems. In some people, though, the leak worsens to create a significant back-flow of blood into the left atrium. This is called mitral regurgitation. People with severe mitral regurgitation can develop symptoms such as shortness of breath, fatigue and leg swelling. Heart surgery may be needed to repair the damaged valve.

Mitral valve prolapse affects up to 5% of people in the United States. It is a lifelong condition that usually does not cause any symptoms or affect lifestyle or life expectancy.


Most people with mitral valve prolapse don’t know it—they feel fine and it doesn’t cause any symptoms. It is usually discovered when a doctor hears a certain clicking sound, with or without a heart murmur, when listening to the heart with a stethoscope during a routine physical examination.

Mitral valve prolapse was once blamed for symptoms such as chest pains, palpitations, and lightheadedness. Individuals with mitral valve prolapse can have those symptoms, but mitral valve prolapse is usually not the cause.

When mitral valve prolapse leads to mitral regurgitation, it may cause

  • fatigue
  • shortness of breath
  • leg swelling
  • and other symptoms of heart failure

Source: Harvard Health Publications / Harvard Medical School


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This entry was posted on August 14, 2015 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , .
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