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The Mitral Valve and Mitral Valve Prolapse


Updated March 09, 2011

Heart Valves Image

Human Heart Valves

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Question: The Mitral Valve and Mitral Valve Prolapse
I've been told that I have mitral valve prolapse. What is the mitral valve and what does prolapse mean?

What is the Mitral Valve?

The mitral valve, also known as the bicuspid valve or left atrioventricular valve, is one of the four valves in the heart. It rests between two chambers of the heart, the left atrium and the left ventricle. It is made up of a ring of tissue that supports two leaflets, or tissue flaps, that work together to open and close. If the valve is healthy, the leaflets meet closely, preventing blood from passing through the valve until it opens.

The purpose of the mitral valve is to keep blood flowing from the atrium, the upper chamber, to the ventricle, the lower chamber, where it can be pumped to the rest of the body. If the mitral valve is not working properly, the heart may work inefficiently.

What Is Mitral Valve Prolapse?

Mitral valve prolapse, or floppy valve syndrome, occurs when the leaflets of the valve no longer close properly. In many cases, the prolapse poses no problems and isn’t noticeable without specialized testing, such as an echocardiogram.

In more severe cases, the leaflets become so weak, or floppy, that they no longer prevent blood from flowing backward into the atrium. This backflow of blood is called mitral valve regurgitation and makes the heart work harder to pump blood.

In more severe cases of prolapse and regurgitation, symptoms may include shortness of breath, an abnormal heart beat, weakness and chest pain. A prolapse also increases the risk of endocarditis, an infection of the valve leaflets.


What Is Mitral Valve Prolapse? National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. Accessed March, 2009. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/mvp/mvp_whatis.html

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