What is mitral valve stenosis?

David H. Adams, MD
Thoracic Surgery (Cardiothoracic Vascular)

When the opening of the mitral valve narrows, blood flow is limited and the atrium has to work harder. This can potentially lead to heart failure. Mitral stenosis is most commonly a consequence of rheumatic fever, hardening of the leaflets with age, or certain congenital heart defects. Patients may not experience symptoms. Sometimes they may develop an abnormal heart rhythm such as atrial fibrillation that increases the risk of clots formation and strokes necessitating treatment with blood thinners.

Mitral stenosis is a disease that leads to narrowing of the mitral valve in your heart. Your heart has four chambers (spaces), including two upper atria and two lower ventricles. There are valves (doors) with leaflets (flaps) between the chambers. The valves open and close to direct blood flow through your heart. The mitral valve is found between the left atrium and left ventricle. The left atrium receives blood with oxygen from your lungs. The blood passes through the mitral valve into your left ventricle, and is pumped out to your body.

Mitral stenosis happens when the leaflets of your mitral valve get thicker and stiffer. This makes the valve opening smaller, making it harder for blood to move into the left ventricle. The narrowing of your mitral valve may worsen over time. Blood flow through your heart may decrease, and your heart may not pump enough blood to your body. Tissues and other organs will not have enough oxygen and nutrients to function properly. You may feel tired or short of breath when doing your normal activities. Having your mitral stenosis treated may improve your ability to be active without tiring so easily. Your symptoms, such as shortness of breath, may go away.

Susie Whitworth
Mitral valve stenosis occurs when the opening of the mitral valve is incomplete during diastole (when the heart muscle relaxes and allows the chambers to fill with blood during this phase of the heartbeat). It is commonly caused by rheumatic fever and is a progressive and lifelong disorder.

Mitral valve stenosis describes when the valve between two of your heart’s chambers, your left atrium and left ventricle, has become narrowed. When this happens the flaps, or leaflets, that control blood flow through the valve do not open enough to allow blood to flow properly between the heart’s left-hand chambers. The resultant constant build up of blood in the left atrium can eventually cause serious health problems.

Your physician may prescribe one or more medications as part of treating mitral valve stenosis symptoms. Common medications include anticoagulants and blood-thinners to discourage blood clots, diuretics to reduce fluid build-up in the body, anti-arrhythmics to control an irregular heartbeat, and antibiotics to treat or prevent a bacterial infection.

Serious mitral valve regurgitation is treated with valve repair or replacement. Mitral valve repair can consist of trimming excess tissue, surgically separating leaflets, or tightening cords that are attached to the leaflets. More often, surgery to replace the valve is indicated. During valve replacement surgery, your valve is removed and replaced with either a mechanical one or a valve from another person, a pig or a cow.

Sometimes, mitral valve stenosis may by treated with a procedure using a small balloon, which is inserted with a tube placed in the vein of the leg and threaded to the heart.


Continue Learning about Heart Disease

What Are Cardiovascular Risk Factors?
What Are Cardiovascular Risk Factors?
Keeping your heart healthy means minimizing the things that put your heart health at risk. In this video, Dr. Oz outlines the risk factors for cardiov...
Read More
Do heart abnormalities affect children differently than adults?
Honor Society of Nursing (STTI)Honor Society of Nursing (STTI)
Other than congenital heart defects, which are present at birth, adults develop most heart abnormali...
More Answers
6 Heart-Healthy Habits for Women That Truly Make a Difference
6 Heart-Healthy Habits for Women That Truly Make a Difference6 Heart-Healthy Habits for Women That Truly Make a Difference6 Heart-Healthy Habits for Women That Truly Make a Difference6 Heart-Healthy Habits for Women That Truly Make a Difference
Heart disease rates have been dropping steadily for everyone but younger women. Here’s how to reverse that trend.
Start Slideshow
What's Wrong with Our Healthcare System?
What's Wrong with Our Healthcare System?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.