Mitral Valve Disease (Regurgitation)

The mitral valve is located between the left atrium and the left ventricle and controls the flow of blood as it returns from the lungs before being pumped out to the body. It is a one-way valve that opens and closes with each heartbeat. When open, the valve allows blood to pass from the atrium into the ventricle. When closed, it prevents blood from returning to the atrium.

A healthy mitral valve maintains blood flow in one direction, from the atrium to the ventricle, and from the ventricle to the rest of the body. If the valve becomes damaged, surgery may be necessary to ensure proper blood flow through the heart.

Mitral valve disease is often asymptomatic in its early stages. Over time, patients will notice common symptoms such as shortness of breath, lightheadedness, fatigue, racing or irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), and a dry cough.

The Following Conditions Sometimes Cause Mitral Valve Disease:

  • Acquired Valve Disease*: Problems involving the structure of a valve that develop over time, including rheumatic fever, endocarditis and more
  • Mitral Stenosis: Narrowing of mitral valve opening that restricts blood flow from the left atrium to the left ventricle
  • Mitral Regurgitation: Mitral valve leak that causes blood to flow backward through the heart and into the lungs
  • Structural Problems: Congenital valve disease that develops before birth


Your Inova cardiac surgeon is your best resource to determine which valve treatment is ideal for your individual situation.

Minimally invasive valve repair has numerous patient benefits, including:

  • Small incision, less pain and tissue damage
  • Shorter hospital stay
  • Faster recovery and return to daily activities
  • No change in normal heart architecture
  • Better left ventricular function after surgery
  • No need for repeat surgery due to prosthetic valve degeneration or infection
  • No need to take lifelong blood thinning medications to prevent blood clots

Mitral valve replacement is performed less frequently, usually in cases where the valve cannot be repaired.

Options include biological (tissue valves) and mechanical valves. Biological valves are usually made from pig or cow tissue. They are easy to insert and generally last 15 to 20 years. Patients who receive tissue valves do not need to take a blood thinning medication for the rest of their lives. Mechanical valves are also easy to insert and durable, generally lasting more than 20 years. Patients who receive mechanical valves must take a blood thinning medication for the rest of their lives to prevent blood clots.

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