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What Are Mitral Valve Abnormalities?

The mitral (pronounced MY-trahl) valve is like a door in the heart that allows blood to pass from the left atrium, one of the atria, (which receives blood from the lungs) to the left ventricle (which pumps blood out to the body). The mitral valve has two flaps or cusps.

Abnormalities of the valve can include mitral valve prolapse, mitral valve stenosis and mitral valve regurgitation.

  • Mitral valve prolapse is when one or both valve flaps are enlarged. As a result, when the heart pumps, the mitral valve flaps don't close smoothly and may not seal tightly. 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 and blood leaks back into the left atrium from the left ventricle. This causes 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 through to the left ventricle. As a result, blood can back up in the blood vessels of the lungs. Stenosis can also cause regurgitation.

Mitral Valve Abnormalities in Children

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

Some children are born with mitral valve problems. The causes aren’t clear. Children born with mitral valve problems usually have other abnormalities that need to be treated. Congenital mitral valve leakage (regurgitation) often occurs with holes in the dividing walls between the upper or lower heart chambers. Congenital mitral valve narrowing (stenosis) is usually seen in association with other blood flow obstructions on the left side of the heart. Rarely, it can occur as an isolated condition. Sometimes children may have other health problems at birth, too. For instance, mitral valve prolapse sometimes occurs along with other conditions, like Marfan syndrome.

Some valve abnormalities don’t cause any problems. Some can cause serious problems, like heart failure, if they’re not 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. We also have a pediatric cardiac anesthesia team and a cardiac intensive care unit to help care for children who undergo heart surgery.

When you come to Children's, you have a whole team of people available to care for your child. Along with your child's cardiologist, you are connected with the entire heart center team including cardiac surgeons, cardiac anesthesiologists and cardiac intensive care specialists. We also have available every conceivable medial and surgical specialist that might be needed to care for your child. But it doesn’t stop there. We have an outstanding team of nurses, and 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.

Since 1907, Children's has been treating children only. Our team members are trained in their fields and also in meeting the unique needs of children. For example, the doctors who give your child anesthesia are board certified in pediatric anesthesiology. This means they have extra 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. Our expertise in pediatrics truly makes a difference for our patients and families.

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

Who Treats This at Seattle Children's?

Should your child see a doctor?

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Spring 2014: Good Growing Newsletter

In This Issue

  • Cold Water Shock Can Quickly Cause Drowning
  • E-Cigs Are Addictive and Harmful
  • Bystanders Can Intervene to Stop Bullying

Download Spring 2014 (PDF)