The mitral valve controls blood flow from the left atrium to the left ventricle of the heart. When the mitral valve malfunctions, blood may leak backwards if the valve's flaps do not shut completely (mitral valve prolapse) or blood flow may be greatly reduced if the opening of the valve narrows (mitral valve stenosis). The heart then needs to work harder to pump, which can weaken the heart and cause it to enlarge. While some patients experience no symptoms at all, others have symptoms such as dyspnea (shortness of breath), chest pain, swelling of the ankles and legs, and dizziness.
Mitral valve damage is caused by a number of conditions, including rheumatic fever, heart attack, infections, and myxomatous degeneration, which is an inherited disorder that weakens the heart valve tissue. Mild mitral valve disease may not need to be treated, and symptoms can be managed with medication. However, surgery to repair the mitral valve or mitral valve replacement surgery may be needed.
Heart valve repair can be performed on some mitral valves to enable them to open and shut more efficiently. Procedures for valve repair include:
- Ring annuloplasty, which tightens the ring supporting the valve (called the annulus) by inserting an artificial ring made of metal, tissue or cloth around the valve.
- Valve repair, which reconstructs the weakened or damaged parts of the valve, such as the flaps and the muscles and tendons that open and shut the valves.
Learn more about mitral valve repair surgery at BWH.