Mitral Valve Stenosis

What is Mitral Valve Stenosis?

The mitral valve is positioned on the left side of a person’s heart with the atrium located above the valve and the ventricle situated below the valve. Blood flows through the mitral valve and stenosis occurs when the valve becomes too constricted. When this happens, the proper amount of blood is unable to travel through the valve.

This can cause individuals to have various health issues and if the condition gets bad enough, heart failure can occur. Individuals who had rheumatic fever when they were children often develop Mitral Valve Stenosis due to the effects of the disease on the heart. Babies who are born with congenital heart defects may also be afflicted with this condition. Other causes include calcium deposits, blood clots and tumors.

What are the Symptoms of Mitral Valve Stenosis?

Some people who have mitral valve stenosis will not have any symptoms unless they are engaging in strenuous physical activity. The average age for individuals to start having symptoms is when a person is between 20 and 50 years old.

Symptoms include

Coughing, problems breathing, tiredness, swollen ankles and feet, pulsating heart beat and repeated respiratory issues.

Babies who are born with this condition may also show various signs and these symptoms will begin by the time the child reaches two years of age. Parents should watch for coughs, lack of appetite, slowness in growth, sweating when eating and breathing issues.

Mitral Valve Stenosis Causes

Mitral valve stenosis has several causes ranging from illness to congenital defects. The most common cause is from strong cases of strep throat or rheumatic fever which can cause a thickening or fusing of the heart’s mitral valve. Calcium deposits can form around the mitral valve, leading to stenosis as individuals age. Congenital defects can also be a cause of the condition, especially in babies born with a narrowed mitral valve. Over time, this congenital defect can cause complications requiring medical attention. Other causes of mitral valve stenosis include autoimmune diseases such as lupus, exposure to chest radiation, infections of the heart muscle or valves, and valve hardening from old age or severe kidney disease.

How is Mitral Valve Stenosis Treated?

Some individuals who have a mild form of this condition will not need any treatment unless they start having severe symptoms.

Treatments include

Regular doctor visits are important to keep a close watch on the progression of this type of disorder. If necessary, surgery can be performed to make repairs to the faulty mitral valve or replace it completely. Common surgeries to repair the valve are a balloon valvotomy, to expand the valve or a commissurotomy, which is performed to take off scar tissue and calcium deposits that have formed on the valve. Individuals who need a new valve will undergo surgery for a mitral valve replacement.

Mitral Valve Stenosis Prevention

Mitral Valve Stenosis is a condition that is caused as a result of previous illness or congenital defect and cannot be prevented from occurring. In patients with mild to moderate mitral valve stenosis, comprehensive treatment other than physician monitoring may not be necessary. In more severe cases, if left untreated, mitral valve stenosis can cause serious heart complications. Although medicines are not prescribed to actually correct the condition, they are used to manage associated symptoms. The most common medications include:

  • Diuretics to reduce fluid retention in the lungs
  • Blood thinners to prevent blood clots
  • Beta blockers to ensure the heart is working efficiently
  • Anti-arrhythmics to treat heart rhythm disturbances
  • Antibiotics to prevent the recurrence of rheumatic fever if it was the initial cause of mitral valve stenosis

In some cases, mitral valve stenosis requires valve repair or replacement to correct or reduce the symptoms. Some of the most common surgical procedures are percutaneous balloon mitral valvuloplasty and mitral valve surgery. In a percutaneous balloon, mitral valvuloplasty doctors insert a catheter tipped with a balloon into an artery and guide it to the affected valve. Once in place, the balloon is inflated to widen the valve to increase blood flow. The balloon is then deflated and the catheter and balloon are removed.

Mitral valve surgery can involve open heart surgery to remove calcium deposits or scar tissue to improve the heart valve’s functionality. This procedure may need to be repeated if the patient’s condition worsens over time. Mitral valve surgery can also be performed to completely replace the mitral valve. Valves are typically replaced with a mechanical valve but can also be a valve from a cow or pig. Mechanical valves require that the patient take blood thinners for the rest of their life. However, biological tissue valves (those harvested from a cow or pig) can deteriorate over time and require future surgery.