Ask the doctor: Surgery for mitral valve prolapse

Ask the doctor

Surgery for mitral valve prolapse?

Q. In a study I heard about, people who had leaky mitral valves but no symptoms benefited from an operation to fix the valve. Many of the people in the study had mitral valve prolapse, as I do, but my doctor says I don't have a heart murmur. Would surgery help me?

A. The results of this study, which appeared in the March 3 New England Journal of Medicine, don't really apply to you. The people in it had enough leakage across the mitral valve to cause a definite murmur.

The mitral valve sits between the two chambers on the left side of your heart, the left atrium and the left ventricle. When this valve doesn't close properly, blood can flow backward, from the ventricle to the atrium. This backward flow is called regurgitation. When it is substantial, it can cause fatigue and breathlessness, and stress the left ventricle.

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