Structural heart disease is a medical condition that can include defects or abnormalities of the heart valves or chambers. It affects about 60 million people in the United States. Some cardiac defects are present at birth, but other abnormalities develop later in life due to other diseases and illnesses, or even aging. One structural heart condition, which can lead to heart failure, is known as mitral valve disease.
The heart consists of four chambers through which blood flow. The mitral valve is located between the two left chambers. It works to keep blood flowing properly in one direction from the left atrium to the left ventricle and prevents blood from flowing backward. If the valve is not working properly, blood flow disturbances develop, which can cause shortness of breath and other symptoms of heart failure, as well as rhythm disorders such as atrial fibrillation.
There are two types of mitral valve disease. Mitral valve stenosis occurs due to narrowing in the mitral valve. Mitral valve regurgitation refers to leakage in the mitral valve due to various conditions such as mitral valve leaflet prolapse, which affects about 2 percent of Americans.
Each type of mitral valve disease has a different cause, but all share similar symptoms, including coughing, shortness of breath, palpitations and being winded with effortless activity. However, a problem with your mitral valve may cause no symptoms at all.
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To determine if mitral valve disease is present, a physician will listen to your heart through a stethoscope. Abnormal sounds like clicking or a heart murmur may indicate the disease. A cardiologist may also perform an echocardiogram to confirm the diagnosis, which is a non-invasive ultrasound evaluation of the heart.
Some people who are suffering from mitral valve disease may not need treatment, depending on the severity of the condition and symptoms. Severe cases will likely require intervention to correct the condition.
In the past, a common surgical treatment included replacing the mitral valve with either a mechanical or bioprosthetic valve, if repair could not be achieved.
Today, a newer, minimally invasive option called MitraClip is available. It has been shown to have equal benefit in reducing patients’ symptoms, and is now an option for those with mitral valve regurgitation. Unlike surgery, the MitraClip device does not require opening the chest and temporarily stopping the heart.
The procedure is done by use of a catheter that is inserted into a vein in the groin, and guided into the heart. The MitraClip brings together and attaches the two leaflets of the mitral valve, aligning them and limiting the leakage.
If you think you may have symptoms of mitral valve disease, contact a physician to be evaluated. Early diagnosis is key in order to administer treatment, so that the heart can return to normal.
Dr. Nezar Falluji is with Interventional Cardiology, KentuckyOne Health Cardiology Associates.