Mitral valve prolapse

The mitral valve helps blood flow from one chamber of the heart to another – specifically, from the left atrium to the left ventricle. In mitral valve prolapse (MVP), one or both valve flaps are enlarged, and some of their supporting strings are too long. The result: When the heart pumps, the flaps of the mitral valve do not close smoothly or evenly. Instead, part of one or both flaps collapses backward into the atrium, often causing blood to leak backward through the valve.

Diagnosing mitral valve prolapse

Your doctor will decide whether medications or special tests are necessary. Often, a careful physical examination can detect MVP. Sometimes an echocardiogram is used to help diagnose this condition. In an echocardiogram, ultrasound waves are painlessly bounced off the heart and provide a picture of the heart valves and how blood flows through the chambers. It is important to know whether or not you have MVP because there are occasional problems that arise that can usually be prevented or controlled with medication.

In cases of very severe prolapse, surgical intervention may be required.