Mitral regurgitation is a disorder in which the mitral valve on the left side of the heart does not close properly.
Regurgitation means leaking from a valve that does not close all the way.
Mitral regurgitation is the most common type of heart valve disorder.
Blood that flows between different chambers of your heart must flow through a valve. The valve between the 2 chambers on the left side of your heart is called the mitral valve.
When the mitral valve doesn't close all the way, blood flows backward into the upper heart chamber (atrium) from the lower chamber as it contracts. This cuts down on the amount of blood that flows to the rest of the body. As a result, the heart may try to pump harder. This may lead to congestive heart failure.
Mitral regurgitation may begin suddenly. This often occurs after a heart attack. When the regurgitation does not go away, it becomes long-term (chronic).
Many other diseases or problems can weaken or damage the valve or the heart tissue around the valve. You are at risk for mitral valve regurgitation if you have:
Another important risk factor for mitral regurgitation is past use of a diet pill called "Fen-Phen" (fenfluramine and phentermine) or dexfenfluramine. The drug was removed from the market by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1997 because of safety concerns.
Symptoms may begin suddenly if:
There are often no symptoms. When symptoms occur, they often develop gradually, and may include:
When listening to your heart and lungs, the health care provider may detect:
The physical exam may also reveal:
The following tests may be done to look at the heart valve structure and function:
Cardiac catheterization may be done if heart function becomes worse.
Treatment will depend on what symptoms you have, what condition caused the mitral valve regurgitation, how well the heart is working, and if the heart has become enlarged.
People with high blood pressure or a weakened heart muscle may be given medicines to reduce the strain on the heart and ease symptoms.
The following drugs may be prescribed when mitral regurgitation symptoms get worse:
A low-sodium diet may be helpful. You may need to limit your activity if symptoms develop.
Once the diagnosis is made, you should visit your provider regularly to track your symptoms and heart function.
You may need surgery to repair or replace the valve if:
The outcome varies. Most of the time the condition is mild, so no therapy or restriction is needed. Symptoms can most often be controlled with medicine.
Problems that may develop include:
Call your provider if symptoms get worse or do not improve with treatment.
Also call your provider if you are being treated for this condition and develop signs of infection, which include:
People with abnormal or damaged heart valves are at risk for an infection called endocarditis. Anything that causes bacteria to get into your bloodstream can lead to this infection. Steps to avoid this problem include:
Reviewed By: Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.