Heart and Blood Conditions

Mitral Valve Abnormalities

What are mitral valve abnormalities?

The mitral (pronounced MY-trahl) valve acts like a door in the heart. It allows blood to pass from the left atrium (which receives blood from the lungs) to the left ventricle (which pumps blood out to the body). The mitral valve has two flaps, also called leaflets.

There are 3 different kinds of abnormalities of the mitral valve:

  • Mitral valve prolapse is when one or both valve flaps don’t close smoothly and may not seal tightly when the heart pumps. Instead, they may collapse backward into the left atrium. This sometimes causes regurgitation.
  • Mitral valve regurgitation is when the mitral valve does not close well, which allows blood to leak back from the left ventricle into the left atrium. This may cause the atrium to get bigger. Then it cannot squeeze as effectively as it should.
  • Mitral valve stenosis is when the valve becomes narrow or tight. This makes it hard for the blood to get from the left atrium to the left ventricle. As a result, blood can back up in the blood vessels of the lungs. Valve stenosis and regurgitation can happen together.

Mitral Valve Abnormalities in Children

Some children begin life with a normal mitral valve and then develop problems later on. One cause of mitral valve problems is rheumatic fever, a problem with inflammation that can develop after an infection with Streptococcus bacteria.

Some children are born with mitral valve problems. In many situations, the cause isn’t clear. Children born with mitral valve problems usually have other abnormalities that need to be treated:

  • Congenital mitral valve regurgitation often occurs in children who have holes in the walls of the heart that divide the upper or lower heart chambers.
  • Congenital mitral valve narrowing (stenosis) is usually seen in association with abnormalities that cause obstruction to blood flow on the left side of the heart. Rarely, mitral valve narrowing can occur as an isolated condition.
  • Sometimes children may have other health conditions at birth, too. For instance, mitral valve prolapse sometimes occurs with Marfan syndrome, and some types of mitral regurgitation are common in children with Down syndrome.

Some valve abnormalities don’t cause any problems. Others can cause serious problems, like heart failure, if they aren’t treated.

Mitral Valve Abnormalities at Seattle Children’s

Our heart team has treated many children with mitral valve abnormalities. In a typical year, we see dozens of children with these conditions. We have extensive experience with the treatment these patients may require, including cardiac catheterization and surgery to repair or replace abnormal mitral valves. We also have a pediatric cardiac anesthesia team and a Cardiac Intensive Care Unit to help care for children who have heart surgery.

When you come to Seattle Children’s, a whole team of people work together to care for your child. Along with your child’s heart doctor (cardiologist), you are connected with the entire heart center, team including cardiac surgeons, cardiac anesthesiologists and cardiac intensivists.

We also have available every conceivable medical and surgical specialist who might be needed to care for your child. But it doesn’t stop there. We have an outstanding team of nurses, nurse practitioners, child life specialists and social workers, all working together to meet all of your child’s health needs and help your family through this experience.

Seattle Children’s has been treating children since 1907. Our team members are specially trained in their fields and in meeting the unique needs of children. For example, each of our heart surgeons is board certified in pediatric cardiac surgery. This means they have over 12 years of training in how to take care of kids. Our child life specialists know how to help children understand their illnesses and treatments in ways that make sense for their age.

The Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program shared by Children’s and the University of Washington can help with care throughout your child’s life.

Contact Us

Contact the Heart Center at 206-987-2015 for a cardiac referral, a second opinion or more information.