Mitral Stenosis

Mitral stenosis is a narrowing of the mitral valve in the heart. This valve is located between the upper chamber and the lower pumping chamber of the left side of the heart. Blood flows from the atrium, through the mitral valve and into the ventricle before being pumped out into the rest of the body. Mitral stenosis results in poor blood flow between the two left chambers, so not enough blood and oxygen is pumped throughout the body.

Location of the mitral valve and a close-up view of a normal mitral valve vs. mitral stenosis.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes of Mitral Stenosis

The most common cause of mitral stenosis is rheumatic fever, which scars the mitral valve. Other less common causes include:

  • Congenital defects
  • Infectious endocarditis
  • Blood clots
  • Tumors or other growths that block blood flow

Symptoms of Mitral Stenosis

Symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty breathing, especially during exercise and when lying flat
  • Awakening short of breath in the middle of the night
  • Fatigue
  • Chest pain, such as squeezing, pressure, or tightness
  • Sensation of rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Cough with exertion
  • Coughing up blood
  • Swelling of the legs or feet
  • Frequent respiratory infections
  • Lightheadedness, fainting

Diagnosing Mitral Stenosis

Your doctor may discover mitral stenosis by the following:

  • Abnormal chest sounds, such as a heart murmur or snap
  • Stretching of a vein in the neck
  • Signs of fluid in the lungs

Images may be taken of your chest. This can be done with:

Your heart activity may need to be monitored. This can be done with:

  • Electrocardiogram
  • Holter monitor

Mitral Stenosis Treatment Options

You will need antibiotics when you have certain infections or are having procedures (such as dental work) that may put you at risk for heart infections. 

You may not need immediate treatment if your symptoms are mild. When symptoms become more severe, you may need to limit exertion and avoid high-salt foods. In addition, treatments may include:

Medications

Medications treat specific symptoms associated with mitral stenosis, including:

  • Medications that lower the heart rate and improve the heart's function
  • Water pills (diuretics)
  • Blood-thinners
  • Medications to control heart arrhythmias

Surgery

Common types of heart valve surgery include:

  • Balloon valvuloplasty — A balloon device is inserted into the blocked mitral valve to open or enlarge the valve.
  • Mitral valvulotomy — A surgical cut or enlargement is made in the stenotic mitral valve to relieve the obstruction.
  • Mitral valve replacement — The surgical replacement of a defective heart valve for those with more severe symptoms.

How to Prevent Mitral Stenosis

Reduce rheumatic fever and treat strep throat with antibiotics to prevent most cases of mitral stenosis. There are several things you can do to try to avoid some of the complications of mitral stenosis:

  • Get regular medical care, including checkups and periodic electrocardiograms.
  • Talk to any healthcare provider before procedures.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol and drugs that speed up your heart rate.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Cut down your salt intake.
  • Monitor your blood pressure.

MAKE AN APPOINTMENT

Call 434.243.1146.

 

Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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