Mitral Valve Stenosis
The mitral valve is made up of two leaflets that open and close to allow the forward flow of blood coming from the lungs to the left-sided upper and lower pumping chambers.
What is Mitral Valve Stenosis?
Mitral valve stenosis occurs when your mitral valve (the valve between the upper and lower left-sided pumping chambers of the heart) opening becomes narrowed. The mitral valve’s two leaflets become calcified, thickened or scarred and no longer open properly. This subsequent narrowing blocks the flow of blood into the lower pumping chamber or left ventricle.
Stenosis happens most often in the aortic valve but can also occur in your mitral valve. In many cases, mitral valve stenosis is caused by rheumatic fever, occurring in childhood, from a Streptococcal throat infection that seeds onto the mitral valve. Occasionally it may occur through the natural wear and tear caused by aging. As you get older, calcium can form on the valve’s leaflets. As this deposit builds up, the opening can become narrower and blood will not flow as easily through the mitral valve.
When mitral valve stenosis becomes severe, the valve must almost always be replaced. There are alternative repair techniques that can be performed but will depend on the extent of damage of the mitral valve. If left untreated, mitral valve stenosis can lead to fluid buildup in the lungs since the blood is not effectively crossing the valve and entering the lower chamber of the heart. In addition, this back up of blood can cause the upper chamber or left atrium to enlarge and an abnormal heart rhythm can develop called atrial fibrillation. This irregular heart rhythm can lead to stroke if left untreated. As this condition progresses failure of the RIGHT-sided heart chambers can occur. The blood backs up into the lungs and subsequently backs up even further into the right atrium.