Mitral Insufficiency: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Mitral insufficiency, the most common form of valvular heart disease, occurs when the mitral valve does not close properly, allowing blood to flow backwards into the heart. As a result, the heart cannot pump efficiently, causing symptoms like fatigue and shortness of breath. Mild mitral insufficiency may cause little to no problems, while a more severe case may lead to pulmonary hypertension, atrial fibrillation or heart failure.

If the leakage is mild treatment may not be necessary. In more severe cases, your condition may require heart surgery to repair or replace the valve. The expert heart and vascular team at SSM Health is made up of cardiologists and cardiovascular surgeons. Together, they will monitor your condition closely to determine the best course of treatment.

What Causes Mitral Insufficiency?

The mitral valve, one of four valves within the heart, controls the flow of blood between the left atrium and the left ventricle. The mitral valve opens to allow blood to flow into the left ventricle and then closes to prevent blood from flowing back into the left atrium. In mitral insufficiency, the two flaps of the mitral valve, called leaflets, do not close tightly and can leak or flow in the wrong direction. this condition is also commonly known as mitral regurgitation or mitral incompetence.

Mitral insufficiency may occur because of problems with the valve the left ventricle. You are at an increased risk for mitral insufficiency as you age, if you’ve had rheumatic fever. Heart failure and coronary artery disease also put you at an elevated risk.

Signs & Symptoms of Mitral Insufficiency

The symptoms of mitral insufficiency depend on the severity of the disease. Mitral insufficiency symptoms may include:

  • Heart murmur
  • Shortness of breath, upon exertion or when lying flat
  • Coughing during the night
  • Accumulation of fluid in the lungs
  • Fatigue
  • Swelling of legs and feet

In many cases, patients experience little to no symptoms at all. The condition can worsen, though. If you notice these symptoms or if your symptoms suddenly worsen, make an appointment with an SSM Health heart and vascular specialist as soon as possible.

Treating Mitral Insufficiency 

We may treat your mitral insufficiency medically or surgically, depending on the symptoms and the condition and function of your heart.

Patients with high blood pressure or a weakened heart muscle may be given medication to reduce the strain on the heart and help improve their condition.

If your symptoms become more severe and heart function is poor, an expert team of SSM Health cardiovascular surgeons will repair or replace the mitral valve through the “keyhole” method. This minimally invasive procedure is performed through a small incision in the side of the chest, greatly reducing complications, pain, scarring and recovery time.

If you’re facing the prospect of heart surgery due to valvular heart disease, consider getting a second opinion from SSM Health. We’ll connect you with an expert cardiovascular surgeon to help you evaluate your best options for treatment, so you can move forward with confidence.

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