Key Points about Mitral Valve Stenosis (Mitral Stenosis)
- Mitral valve stenosis blocks blood flow to the main pumping chamber of the heart: the left ventricle.
- If not managed, this condition can lead to other serious heart conditions.
- Treatment for this condition typically involves medication management, lifestyle changes and/or surgical intervention.
Mitral valve stenosis – or mitral stenosis – occurs when the heart’s mitral valve has narrowed. Due to this, the valve doesn’t open normally and reduces blood flow to the left ventricle (main pumping chamber of the heart). If not properly diagnosed and managed, mitral valve stenosis can lead to a variety of potentially serious heart problems, such as:
- Atrial fibrillation, or AFib
- Blood clot
- Heart enlargement
- Heart failure
- Pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure)
Mitral valve stenosis causes
This condition can be caused by:
- Buildup of calcium around the mitral valve
- Congenital (present at birth) mitral valve defect
- Radiation to the chest
- Rheumatic fever
Mitral valve stenosis risk factors
Factors that can increase your risk for developing mitral valve stenosis are:
- History of rheumatic fever
- History of untreated strep infection
Mitral valve stenosis symptoms
Some people with mitral valve stenosis do not experience symptoms, or symptoms will only be mild. Signs and symptoms of mitral valve stenosis can include:
- Coughing up blood
- Dizziness or fainting
- Heart palpitations, or fluttering
- Pain or discomfort in your chest
- Shortness of breath, especially during exercise or while lying down
- Swelling in your feet or legs
Mitral valve stenosis diagnosis
Your cardiologist will use one or more of the following tests to diagnose this condition:
- Complete physical exam. Your doctor will perform a comprehensive physical exam, including asking about your personal and family health history.
- Imaging tests. Your cardiologist may order imaging tests – such as a chest X-ray, electrocardiogram (EKG), transthoracic echocardiogram or cardiac catheterization – to obtain detailed images of your heart and valves.
Mitral valve stenosis treatment
Treatment for mitral valve stenosis may include:
- Medication management. Your cardiologist may prescribe one or more medications to help control symptoms related to mitral valve stenosis, such as diuretics (water pill), blood thinners or beta blockers. If your mitral valve stenosis was caused by rheumatic fever, you might also need to take antibiotic medication to prevent the rheumatic fever infection from recurring.
- Mitral valve repair or replacement. During this procedure, your cardiothoracic surgeon removes your damaged mitral valve and replaces it with another valve that is made of either pig, cow or human tissue or from surgical-grade plastic or metal (mechanical). Valves made of tissue may only last about a decade, while mechanical valves are made to last the rest of your life.
- Ongoing monitoring. If your mitral valve stenosis is mild, your cardiologist may recommend a watchful monitoring approach. You may need to also make some lifestyle modifications during this time, such as eating a heart-healthy diet, getting regular physical activity and limiting your alcohol, salt and caffeine intake.
When to seek care
If you experience any of these symptoms, start by voicing your concerns and symptoms to your primary care provider. From there, your doctor may suggest seeing a cardiologist for more specialized treatment.