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 two 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:
Rheumatic heart disease. This is a complication of untreated strep throat that is becoming less common.
Swelling of the left lower heart chamber
Another important risk factor for tricuspid 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:
A heart attack damages the muscles around the mitral valve.
The cords that attach the muscle to the valve break.
An infection of the valve destroys part of the valve.
There are often no symptoms. When symptoms occur, they often develop gradually, and may include:
Call your health care provider if symptoms get worse or do not improve with treatment.
Also call your health care provider if you are being treated for this condition and develop signs of infection, which include:
General ill feeling
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:
Always tell your health care provider and dentist if you have a history of heart valve disease or congenital heart disease before treatment. Some people may need antibiotics before dental procedures or surgery.
Otto CM, Bonow RO. Valvular heart disease. In: Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 66.
Nishimura. RA, Otto CM, Bownow RO et al. 2014 AHA/ACC Guideline for the Management of Patients With Valvular Heart Disease: A report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2014;148(1):e1-e132.
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, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.