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​What is Mitral Valve Prolapse?

When parts of your heart are formed incorrectly, it is referred to as a structural problem. This can include problems with valves, problems with the connections between blood vessels and your heart, and problems with the walls that separate your heart chambers. When valves are too narrow, it can limit the amount of blood that moves through your heart. Some valves don't close properly. This allows blood to leak back into the chamber it was just in. Mitral valve prolapse (MVP) is an example of a structural problem.

Mitral valve prolapse is a condition in which the heart's mitral valve doesn't work well. The flaps of the valve are "floppy" and may not close tightly. These flaps normally help seal or open the valve.

Much of the time, MVP doesn't cause any problems. Rarely, blood can leak the wrong way through the floppy valve. This can lead to palpitations​, shortness of breath, chest pain, and other symptoms.

Normal Mitral Valve

The mitral valve controls blood flow between the upper and lower chambers of the left side of the heart. The upper chamber is called the left atrium. The lower chamber is called the left ventricle.

The mitral valve allows blood to flow from the left atrium into the left ventricle, but not back the other way. The heart also has a right atrium and ventricle, separated by the tricuspid valve.

With each heartbeat, the atria contract and push blood into the ventricles. The flaps of the mitral and tricuspid valves open to let blood through. Then, the ventricles contract to pump the blood out of the heart.

When the ventricles contract, the flaps of the mitral and tricuspid valves close. They form a tight seal that prevents blood from flowing back into the atria.

Mitral Valve Prolapse

In MVP, when the left ventricle contracts, one or both flaps of the mitral valve flop or bulge back (prolapse) into the left atrium. This can prevent the valve from forming a tight seal. As a result, blood may leak from the ventricle back into the atrium. The backflow of blood is called regurgitation.

MVP doesn't always cause backflow. In fact, most people who have MVP don't have backflow and never have any related symptoms or problems. When backflow occurs, it can get worse over time and it can change the heart's size and raise pressure in the left atrium and lungs. Backflow also raises the risk of heart valve infections.

Medicines can treat troublesome MVP symptoms and help prevent complications. Some people will need surgery to repair or replace their mitral valves.

Who is at Risk for Mitral Valve Prolapse?

Mitral valve prolapse affects people of all ages and both sexes; however, aging raises the risk of developing the disease.

Certain conditions have been associated with MVP, including:

  • A history of rheumatic fever
  • Connective tissue disorders, such as Marfan syndrome​ or Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
  • Graves' disease
  • Scoliosis and other skeletal problems
  • Some types of muscular dystrophy

Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Why The Heart Hospital?

The Heart Hospital Baylor is home to one of the busiest vascular disease treatment programs in the country. However, it's not the volume, but rather the all-encompassing nature of our peripheral vascular services, advanced procedures and technologies offered, and outcomes that set us apart from so many other programs. Besides a robust portfolio of minimally invasive surgical interventions, we offer non-invasive studies of arteries and veins and always attempt non-surgical treatments when possible.​

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