Exploring the Mitral Valve Prolapse

By Tammy Wilson

Mitral valve prolapsed is the most common form of heart valve disease and affects around 10% of the world's population. Mitral valve prolapsed is also known as "Click Murmur Syndrome" and "Barlow's Syndrome" and occurs when the twin-leaves of the valve become weakened or diseased which leads to flow-back of blood between the left atrium and left ventricle.

The mitral valve resembles the headgear of a bishop, the miter and hence "mitral". The function of the mitral valve is to control the flow of blood between the left atrium which is one of the upper, larger chambers of the heart, and the left ventricle which is smaller and responsible for the powerful contraction which powers the blood out of the heart and around the body.

The two leaves of the mitral valve are shaped like parachutes and in normal operation, they seal the opening between the left atrium and left ventricle. They open when blood passes from the atrium to the ventricle but close to stop the blood from escaping the ventricle which maximizes blood pressure and blood flow from the heart. The leaves are attached to the inner wall of the left ventricle by means of "chordae"; these are string like structures which secure the leaves in place.

With mitral prolapsed, the leaves and chordae are weakened by a condition known as "myxomatous"; the proteins and collagen which provide the mitral valve components with their flexibility and strength are attacked causing them to become enlarged and weakened. This allows the leaves to become "floppy" or "prolapsed"; the leaves are then pushed back into the left atrium when the left ventricle is filled and starts to contract causing backflow of the blood in the ventricle into the atrium (this is known as mitral regurgitation). Severe mitral regurgitation can lead to a heart attack and is potentially fatal.

Most sufferers are unaware that they have the condition while the symptoms which may present themselves may lead to a diagnosis of the disease. Some people are susceptible to contracting the condition due to heredity factors and women between 20 and 40 years of age are most at risk (though men are also affected). How hereditary and genetic factor work to create a predisposition to the condition is unknown but sufferers tend to be tall, thin, have long fingers and arms with straight backs.

Symptoms of mitral valve disease include:

Shortness of breath due to exertion, lying down or emotional distress; Excessive tiredness as the day proceeds; Waking up short of breath or having a coughing fit; Swollen ankles and feet; Dizziness or lightheaded feelings; A fast, pounding heart beat or irregularity in the heart beat; and A fluttering feeling in the chest.

The condition can be treated by repairing the mitral valve and this uses a ring which is sewn around the valve. The ring then acts to allow the mitral valve to regain shape and structural integrity. To help the mitral valve function properly, some of the surrounding tissue may be removed and the weakened chordate can be replaced with gortex chords. More extreme cases may require the mitral valve to be completely replaced which is done using either biological valves (made from pig or cow tissue) or artificial, man-made replacement valves. The biological replacements last for around 15 to 20 years and the big advantage is that patients do not need to use anti-coagulants for the rest of their lives; artificial valves are longer lasting but the patient must use anticoagulants and are at higher risk of suffering from blood clotting. - 30540

About the Author:

Sign Up for our Free Newsletter

Enter email address here