What is mitral stenosis?
Four heart valves control how blood flows in and out of your heart. The valves are like one-way doors that keep blood flowing in the right direction.
Your mitral valve separates your left atrium and left ventricle. This valve opens to let blood from your lungs out of your left atrium and into the left ventricle. The valve closes to keep blood from running back into your left atrium.
Mitral stenosis is when the mitral valve doesn't open all the way so it's hard for blood from your lungs to get out of the left atrium. Blood pressure in your left atrium and your lungs builds up.
Certain disorders can cause the flaps on the mitral valve to get stiff and thick
The most common cause is untreated rheumatic fever Rheumatic Fever Rheumatic fever is inflammation of the joints, heart, skin, and nervous system, resulting from a complication of untreated streptococcal infection of the throat. This condition is a reaction... read more , but infants can be born with it
Mitral stenosis may not cause symptoms for a long time
Severe stenosis can cause symptoms, such as shortness of breath, or an abnormal heart rhythm, such as atrial fibrillation Atrial Fibrillation and Atrial Flutter Your heart is a muscle that pumps blood through your body. Your heart rate is how fast your heart beats. Your heart should always have a regular, rhythmic beat, like the ticking of a clock.... read more
Doctors can hear a heart murmur through a stethoscope and do echocardiography Echocardiography and Other Ultrasound Procedures Echocardiography can be used to detect abnormalities in heart wall motion and to measure the volume of blood being pumped from the heart with each beat. This procedure can also detect abnormalities... read more to diagnose mitral stenosis
Treatment can include medicines and surgery
Atrial fibrillation can cause problems such as blood clots Excessive Blood Clotting A blood clot is a clump of material your blood makes to plug up the bleeding from a cut. Blood clots are made of special clotting substances and platelets (very small blood cells). After a cut... read more or stroke Stroke A stroke is a sudden brain problem that happens when a blood vessel in your brain either gets blocked or breaks open and bleeds. Part of your brain stops getting blood. Brain tissue that doesn't... read more . Severe mitral stenosis can cause heart failure Heart Failure Your heart pumps blood to carry oxygen and nutrients to the rest of your body. Heart failure is when your heart doesn’t pump blood as well as it should. It doesn’t mean your heart has stopped... read more (your heart doesn’t pump blood well to the rest of your body).
If you have mitral stenosis, pregnancy can make heart failure develop quickly.
(See also Overview of Heart Valve Disorders Overview of Heart Valve Disorders Your heart is a muscle that pumps blood through your body. Your heart has four chambers. The atria are the two upper chambers in your heart—the right atrium and the left atrium. The ventricles... read more .)
What causes mitral stenosis?
Rheumatic fever Rheumatic Fever Rheumatic fever is inflammation of the joints, heart, skin, and nervous system, resulting from a complication of untreated streptococcal infection of the throat. This condition is a reaction... read more in childhood—but mitral stenosis will not occur if rheumatic fever is prevented by promptly treating strep throat Streptococcal Infections Streptococcus (simply called strep) is a common group of bacteria. Different types of strep cause different diseases. Most often they cause sore throat (strep throat) or skin infections. But... read more with antibiotics
Wear and tear in the valve with old age
Sometimes, people are born with mitral stenosis
What are symptoms of mitral stenosis?
Mild mitral stenosis doesn't usually cause symptoms.
Severe mitral regurgitation can cause heart failure Heart Failure Your heart pumps blood to carry oxygen and nutrients to the rest of your body. Heart failure is when your heart doesn’t pump blood as well as it should. It doesn’t mean your heart has stopped... read more , which may cause you to:
Get tired easily
Feel short of breath
Have swelling in your legs
Atrial fibrillation may cause:
Palpitations (feeling your heart pounding, fluttering, racing, or skipping beats)
Shortness of breath
Once symptoms start, people become severely disabled in about 7 to 9 years. Children born with mitral stenosis often don’t live more than 2 years unless they have surgery.
How can doctors tell if I have mitral stenosis?
Doctors suspect mitral stenosis by listening to your heart with a stethoscope. Doctors use echocardiography Echocardiography and Other Ultrasound Procedures Echocardiography can be used to detect abnormalities in heart wall motion and to measure the volume of blood being pumped from the heart with each beat. This procedure can also detect abnormalities... read more (an ultrasound of your heart) to find out how narrow the valve is.
Doctors also do tests such as:
Electrocardiography (ECG/EKG Electrocardiography Electrocardiography is a test that measures your heart’s electrical activity. It's quick, painless, and harmless. The results of that test are shown in an electrocardiogram. It looks like a... read more ) (a quick, painless, harmless test that measures your heart’s electrical currents and records them on a piece of paper)
How do doctors treat mitral stenosis?
If you don't have symptoms, you don't need treatment.
If you have symptoms, doctors will treat you with medicines to:
Make you urinate more and lower the blood pressure in your lungs
Control your heart rate
Prevent blood clots
If the medicines don't control the symptoms enough, the valve may be repaired or replaced.
When possible, doctors try to repair the valve, a procedure called a valvuloplasty. During valvuloplasty, the doctor inserts a thin, hollow tube (catheter) through a vein or artery into your heart. The doctor inflates a balloon on the tip of the catheter. The balloon pushes the valve open. Sometimes doctors repair the valve during heart surgery.
If your valve cannot be repaired, it can be replaced with:
A plastic, mechanical valve
A valve from a pig or cow heart (bioprosthetic valve)
If you get a mechanical valve, you'll need to take blood-thinning medicine for the rest of your life, but the valve may last several decades. If you get a bioprosthetic valve, you'll need to take the blood-thinning medicine for only a few months, but the valve will last only 10 to 12 years.
People with damaged or replaced valves sometimes need antibiotics to prevent heart valve infection, such as when they:
Get dental work
Have certain medical procedures