What Is Mitral Valve Disease?

Mitral valve disease is the most common form of heart valve disease in the United States, resulting in more than 500,000 hospital admissions per year. There are three main diseases of the mitral valve:

  • Mitral valve regurgitation/insufficiency
  • Mitral valve prolapse
  • Mitral valve stenosis

What is the mitral valve?

The mitral valve is one of the four valves in your heart that helps to control the flow of blood through out your body. Specifically, the mitral valve regulates the flow of oxygen-rich blood received from the lungs to pass from the left atrium (upper chamber of the heart) to the left ventricle (lower chamber of the heart). From there, the aortic valve helps regulate the flow of blood from the left ventricle to the aorta and then out of the heart to circulate throughout your body.

Mitral valve insufficiency/regurgitation

As in all four heart valves, the mitral valve has leaflets—flap-like structures that open and close—to help control the flow of blood. If the leaflets do not close completely, a small amount of blood flows backwards, making the heart work harder than it should. This is called mitral valve insufficiency/regurgitation.

Mitral valve prolapse

Mitral valve prolapse also involves blood flowing the wrong way through the valve, but occurs when the mitral valve bulges slightly back into the left atrium when it closes. It is the most common heart valve condition, affecting five percent of the United States population.

Mitral valve stenosis

Mitral stenosis occurs when the leaflets do not open fully and over time, weakens the heart as it struggles to pump enough blood through the smaller valve opening.

The majority of cases of mitral stenosis are related to the buildup of scar tissue on the valves due to rheumatic heart disease. Symptoms usually appear 16 to 40 years after the episode of acute rheumatic fever.

Clinical trials for mitral valve disease

Researchers at the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute’s Clinical Trials Unit of Northwestern University are currently conducting clinical trials and recruiting volunteers to participate in clinical trials related to mitral valve disease. Discussions with your clinical team will determine if you are a candidate to participate in a specific clinical trial.

Meet the Mitral Valve Disease Team

Northwestern Medicine Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute is a nationally recognized destination for those who require highly specialized cardiovascular care.

Related Resources

What you need to know about heart valve surgery (PDF): This booklet has been developed to help answer the questions you may have about your upcoming heart valve surgery at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. It will guide you through the process for heart valve repair or replacement including preparation for surgery and follow-up care after surgery.