The flow of blood pumped by the heart is controlled by one-way valves. These valves assure that blood moves in only one direction. Mitral regurgitation occurs when the heart's mitral valve leaks blood into the upper chamber from the lower chamber.
If the amount of blood that leaks is severe, mitral regurgitation can be serious. The sooner it is treated, the better the outcome.
Mitral Valve Regurgitation
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Mitral regurgitation may be caused by:
Factors that may increase your chance of developing mitral regurgitation include:
The speed with which symptoms progress closely follow the cause of mitral disease. Acute diseases cause rapid decline, while more chronic diseases lead to slower onset of symptoms.
Mitral regurgitation may cause:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Leaking heart valves usually make sounds called murmurs that can be heard through a stethoscope. You will likely be referred to a cardiologist.
Imaging tests evaluate the heart and surrounding structures. These can be done with:
An electrocardiogram (EKG) can measure your heart's electrical activity.
Treatment options depend on the severity and history of the valve leakage and its effects on the heart’s size and function. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:
Correcting the underlying problem may help the mitral valve function. The treatment depends on the symptoms. In chronic and slowly progressive mitral regurgitation, medications may help reverse effects on the heart’s size. Ultimately, surgery will likely be needed. In acute and rapidly declining disease, the benefit of medications is limited to short term stabilization until emergency surgery occurs.
There are several open heart surgical procedures that can fix leaking valves. The type chosen will depend on the valve and the expert recommendation of the surgeon. The valve may be repaired, if it is an option, or it will be replaced.
To help reduce your chance of getting mitral regurgitation:
American Heart Association
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Canadian Cardiovascular Society
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
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Mitral regurgitation. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
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Updated April 2, 2014. Accessed August 20, 2014.
Shipton B and Wahba H. Valvular heart disease: review and update. Am Fam Physician. 2001;63:2201-2208.
Wood AJJ. Adverse reactions to drugs. In: Isselbacher K, et al. (Eds.) Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 14th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill; 1998.
Wynne J, Braunwald E. The cardiomyopathies and myocarditides. In: Isselbacher K, et al. (Eds). Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicinem. 14th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill; 1998.
Last reviewed August 2014 by Michael J. Fucci, DO
Last Updated: 5/2/2014