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What is mitral valve prolapse?

Mitral valve prolapse (MVP) is the most common heart valve abnormality. In this condition, enough blood does not flow through the mitral valve into the coronary artery. If the leaflets (valve flaps) do not close tightly, blood can leak back into the heart’s chambers (left atrium and left ventricle), in a condition known as mitral regurgitation. When severe, mitral regurgitation can lead to heart failure and abnormal heart rhythms.

The mitral valve may have the following abnormalities that can prevent it from sealing tightly enough; some people have more than one abnormality:

  • Valve flaps may be too big and thick.
  • Valve flaps may be "floppy." The tissue of the flaps and their supporting "strings" are too elastic, and parts of the valve flop or bulge back into the atrium.
  • Valve opening may stretch


MVP doesn’t seem to produce any major symptoms, so many people who have it are unaware of it until complications occur. When MVP does cause signs and symptoms, they may include:

  • Palpitations or arrythymia
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cough
  • Fatigue, dizziness or anxiety
  • Migraine headaches
  • Chest discomfort


The exact cause of MVP is unknown, but for most people, it is a congenital condition that sometimes runs in families.

Risk factors

MVP is more common in people born with connective tissue disorders such as Marfan syndrome.


Most often, MVP is detected during a routine physical exam when your doctor listens to your heart with a stethoscope.

Tests for MVP include:

  • Echocardiography
  • Transesophageal echocardiography (TEE)
  • Doppler ultrasound
  • Chest X-ray
  • EKG (electrocardiogram)


Minimally invasive mitral valve prolapse surgery can repair the valve flaps and correct the problem, whether the leaflets don't open wide enough or don't close properly.

We offer patients with mitral valve disease a less invasive operation where indicated. The operation is performed through a 3-inch incision between the ribs on the right side of the chest, avoiding splitting of the breastbone (sternotomy) and open surgery.

The potential benefits of minimally invasive valve surgery include fewer complications, minimal scarring, faster recovery time and shorter hospital stays.

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