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Mitral Regurgitation

(Mitral Insufficiency)

Definition

The flow of blood pumped by the heart is controlled by one-way valves. These valves assure that blood moves in only one direction. Mitral regurgitation occurs when the heart's mitral valve leaks blood into the upper chamber from the lower chamber.
If the amount of blood that leaks is severe, mitral regurgitation can be a serious condition that requires care from your doctor. The sooner it is treated, the better the outcome. If you suspect that you have this condition, contact your doctor right away.
Mitral Valve Regurgitation
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Causes

There are several causes for leaky heart valves. Birth defects can deform them. Infections can scar them. Heart attacks can damage them. The mechanics of an enlarged heart can stretch out the opening so that the valve is no longer large enough to work effectively.

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your chance of developing mitral regurgitation include:

Symptoms

The speed with which symptoms progress closely follow the cause of mitral disease. Acute diseases cause rapid decline, while more chronic diseases lead to slower onset of symptoms. The following symptoms may be caused by mitral regurgitation:

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Leaking heart valves usually make sounds called murmurs that can be heard through a stethoscope. You will likely be referred to a cardiologist.
Images may need to be taken of your heart. This can be done using:

Treatment

Treatment options depend on the severity and history of the valve leakage and its effects on the heart’s size and function. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:

Treat Underlying Disease

Correcting the underlying problem may help the mitral valve function. The treatment depends on the symptoms. In chronic and slowly progressive mitral regurgitation, medications may help reverse effects on the heart’s size. Ultimately, surgery will likely be needed. In acute and rapidly declining disease, the benefit of medications is limited to short term stabilization until emergency surgery occurs.

Surgery

There are several open heart surgical procedures that can fix leaking valves. The type chosen will depend on the valve and the expert recommendation of the surgeon. The valve may be repaired, if it is an option, or it will be replaced.

Prevention

To help reduce your chance of getting mitral regurgitation, take the following steps:

RESOURCES

American Heart Association http://www.heart.org

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Cardiovascular Society http://www.ccs.ca

Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada http://ww2.heartandstroke.ca

References

Braunwald E. Valvular heart disease. In: Isselbacher K, et al. (Eds). Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 14th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill; 1998.

Wood AJJ. Adverse reactions to drugs. In: Isselbacher K, et al. (Eds.) Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine . 14th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill; 1998.

Wynne J, Braunwald E. The cardiomyopathies and myocarditides. In: Isselbacher K, et al. (Eds). Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicinem . 14th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill; 1998.

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