Mitral Valve Disease

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Mitral valve disease affects the way blood flows from the left atrium of your heart to the left ventricle, which squeezes hard enough to push oxygen-laden blood throughout your body.

The mitral valve regulates blood flowing from the left atrium to the ventricle, opening to allow the blood to move forward and closing to keep it moving in the right direction with each beat of your heart.

Mitral valve disease can cause the valve to leak or narrow. Sometimes mitral valve disease has no symptoms, but often causes serious issues. 

If the leakage or narrowing of the mitral valve is severe and the appropriate amount of blood fails to move through the heart, patients can feel very tired and short of breath. The heart’s extra effort to pump sufficient blood out to the body can enlarge and weaken the heart muscle. The result can be heart failure.

The cardiologists and other specialists at the Norton Heart & Vascular Institute Structural Heart Program have the experience and expertise to know when treatment is required for mitral valve disease.

Often, mitral valve disease symptoms can be managed with medication or lifestyle changes, but sometimes treatment of the condition itself requires minimally invasive mitral valve repair or replacement. Some patients may need open heart surgery.

Our team of medical providers will examine your case, bringing their range of viewpoints to the discussion and arriving at a customized treatment plan for your condition.

The broad types of mitral valve disease include mitral valve regurgitation and mitral valve stenosis.

Mitral Valve Regurgitation

In cases of mitral valve regurgitation, the leaflets on the valve, which open and close with each beat of the heart, aren’t closing tightly. The resulting leak allows blood to flow backward when the left ventricle pumps blood out to the rest of the body.

Because blood moves backward through the leaky valve, this causes the heart to work harder to keep blood moving. This weakens the heart muscle, which can lead to heart failure.

Mitral valve prolapse is a condition that can cause regurgitation. In cases of mitral valve prolapse, the valve’s leaflets have become floppy and fall back into the left atrium when the left ventricle contracts. The condition can get in the way of the valve closing, forcing blood to flow backward.

Other causes of mitral regurgitation include heart valve infection, rheumatic fever, heart attack and a congenital heart defect.

In some patients, performance of the mitral valve will decline slowly over time. Some people with mitral valve regurgitation might not have symptoms for many years.

Signs of mitral regurgitation include:

  • Fatigue/tiredness
  • Sound of blood flow across the valve (heart murmur)
  • Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia)
  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea), especially when lying down
  • Sensation of a rapid, pounding or fluttering heartbeat (palpitations)
  • Swollen feet or ankles (edema)

Mitral Valve Stenosis

Mitral valve stenosis occurs when the valve doesn’t open as wide as it should or has narrowed. This reduces the amount of oxygen-rich blood from the lungs making its way out to the rest of your body. The result is feeling tired and short of breath. Blood held back in the left atrium can cause it to enlarge and force fluid into your lungs.

In addition to fatigue and shortness of breath, mitral valve stenosis symptoms can include dizziness, palpitations and chest pain. Untreated, mitral valve stenosis can lead to atrial fibrillation, pulmonary hypertension or heart failure.

Mitral valve stenosis can be caused by rheumatic fever, a complication of strep throat. Mitral stenosis as a result of rheumatic fever typically won’t become apparent for decades after the infection. The infection can cause heart inflammation, and over time, the mitral valve leaflets become less mobile. With age, some people develop severe calcification of their mitral valve, resulting in narrowing. Both surgical and minimally invasive techniques are available to treat this condition.

Heart and Vascular Care for the Whole Person

Norton Heart & Vascular Institute offers patient resources to support you and your family, including free classes for people of all ages who are seeking to improve cardiovascular health or living with a heart condition.

Cardiac Rehabilitation Program

Our cardiac rehabilitation providers are leaders in developing and applying innovative techniques that can help you recover and resume your life.

Connecting Hearts Support Group

The group provides education and support to individuals who have had a heart attack, are living with a heart condition or are at risk for cardiovascular disease.

Heart Health Screenings

Prevention is the best way to manage heart disease, and screenings are available to detect early signs of cardiac and vascular disease and identify risk factors.

About Norton Heart & Vascular Institute

Every year, more than 137,000 people in Louisville and Southern Indiana choose Norton Heart & Vascular Institute specialists for their heart and vascular care. That’s more than any other health care provider.

  • Norton Healthcare’s adult-service hospitals in Louisville all have received Chest Pain Center accreditation from the American College of Cardiology (ACC). This is the seventh consecutive accreditation for all four hospitals, which ensures quality for the treatment of heart attack.
  • Norton Audubon Hospital, Norton Brownsboro Hospital and Norton Hospital all are recognized as having ACC Chest Pain Center with Primary PCI accreditation.
  • Norton Healthcare has the most facilities across the city of Louisville with the ability treat a life-threatening heart attack.
  • You have access to more than 100 physicians and advanced practice providers with specialized training and experience in a comprehensive range of conditions and treatments.
  • Patients can make appointments at 28 locations in Louisville and Southern Indiana. Telecardiology is offered at more than 30 sites in the region.
  • Norton Audubon Hospital, a key location for Norton Heart & Vascular Institute services, has been recognized with a HeartCare Center National Distinction of Excellence year after year by the American College of Cardiology. This is the only hospital in Louisville to be recognized for this distinction.
  • U.S. News & World Report 2023-24 Best Hospitals ranked Norton Healthcare’s adult-service hospitals in Louisville as high performing in heart attack, heart failure, aortic valve surgery and heart bypass surgery.
  • Norton Audubon Hospital earned ventricular assist device (VAD) accreditation from DNV – Healthcare and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
  • Communicate with your health care provider, renew prescriptions, get lab results and more through your free Norton MyChart account.

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