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  1. Hayes, Denise D. MSN, RN, CRNP

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What is mitral valve prolapse?

Your heart has four chambers, or spaces, for blood flow. The two upper chambers are called atria. The two lower chambers are called ventricles. Between each upper and lower chamber is a one-way valve that keeps your blood moving in the right direction (forward) and stops your blood from moving in the wrong direction (backward).


On the left side of your heart, between the left atrium and the left ventricle, is the mitral valve. Normally, this valve closes tightly to prevent blood from flowing backward into the left atrium each time the left ventricle contracts. But in mitral valve prolapse, one or two parts of the valve flop or bulge back into the left atrium. Although the valve usually still closes normally, sometimes the blood moves backward instead of forward. Mitral valve prolapse can run in families, but most times, the cause isn't known.


How will my healthcare provider know I have mitral valve prolapse?

Most people with mitral valve prolapse don't even know they have it because they have no symptoms. Your healthcare provider may be able to tell that you have mitral valve prolapse by listening to your heart with a stethoscope. If he or she thinks you have mitral valve prolapse, you'll have a simple, painless test called an echocardiogram. This test uses sound waves to take pictures of and show the direction of blood flow through your heart's chambers and valves.


How is mitral valve prolapse treated?

Most people with mitral valve prolapse don't need any treatment, even if they have symptoms. But some people may need to take medicine if the mitral valve prolapse causes blood backflow and symptoms, such as chest discomfort or the feeling that your heart is racing. If too much blood is moving backward into the left atrium, surgery may be needed to fix the valve, but this is rare.


What can I do to protect myself?

Always tell your healthcare providers, including your dentist, that you have mitral valve prolapse. Some people need to take antibiotics before certain procedures (such as a tooth extraction); however, most people with mitral valve prolapse don't. It's usually more important to floss and brush your teeth and see your dentist regularly. Avoid drinking alcohol and coffee or other caffeinated drinks and foods if you have problems with a fast heart rate or irregular heart rhythm. Keep your follow-up appointments with your healthcare provider to make sure your mitral valve prolapse isn't getting any worse.


When should I call my healthcare provider?

Call your healthcare provider if you have any new symptoms, such as swelling in your feet and ankles. If you have new chest discomfort, difficulty breathing, or other unusual symptoms, call 911 and seek emergency care right away.