Mitral Valve Regurgitation

Mitral valve regurgitation is a condition in which the heart's mitral valve does not close properly. This allows blood to flow backwards from the left ventricle up into the left atrium. This condition can be caused by several conditions, but the most common cause is rheumatic fever. Over time, symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath, irregular heart rhythms, and swelling in the feet and ankles may develop. The treatment depends on the person's overall health and how severe the condition is.

What Is Mitral Valve Regurgitation?

The valves of the heart are like doors that open and close. They open to allow blood to flow into the next chamber of the heart or into one of the arteries, and then they shut to keep blood from flowing backwards.
 
The mitral valve is on the left side of the heart. It separates the left atrium and the left ventricle. Normally, the mitral valve opens when the left atrium contracts. This allows blood to flow down into the left ventricle. The mitral valve is closed when the left ventricle contracts -- allowing blood to flow out to the rest of the body through the aortic valve.
 
When a person has mitral valve regurgitation, the valve does not close properly. So when the left ventricle contracts, some of the blood returns back to the left atrium instead of going out to the rest of the body. Over time, the left atrium enlarges due to the increased workload the extra blood causes. As the left atrium thickens, it becomes less effective at pumping blood through the mitral valve.
 

What Causes It?

The most common cause of mitral valve regurgitation is rheumatic fever. This condition often occurs with aortic valve problems, such as aortic stenosis or aortic regurgitation, which are also associated with rheumatic fever. Regurgitation can also be caused by:
 
This condition occurs more frequently in males than in females.
 
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