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Understanding the Types of Heart Valve Prolapse

Understanding the Types of Heart Valve Prolapse

Cardiovascular or heart disease ranks highly as a major cause of death. In the Philippines, an annual average of 118,740 Filipinos have cardiac-related deaths. There is a 5% increase each year on this average. Valvular heart disease is one kind of heart disease.

Valvular heart disease occurs when one or more of the valves of the heart fail to function properly. A human heart has four chambers with four corresponding valves at the exit of each heart chamber.

The heart valves have flaps, referred to as leaflets or cusps, that allow entry or exit of the blood. The valves primarily ensure that the blood flows forward–not backward–in the right direction through the four chambers and to the rest of the body.

The Four Chambers of the Heart

  • Upper chambers (collectively, the atria)
    • Right atrium: Receives blood from the body
    • Left atrium: Receives oxygenated blood from the lungs
  • Lower chambers
    • Right ventricle: Pumps blood to the lungs
    • Left ventricle: Pumps blood to the rest of the body

The 4 Heart Valves

  • Tricuspid valve: Separates the right atrium from the right ventricle
  • Mitral valve: Pumps blood from the left atrium to the left ventricle
  • Pulmonary valve: Separates the right ventricle from the lungs
  • Aortic valve: Separates the left ventricle from the aorta (the main vessel to carry blood to the body)

The beat behind the chambers and the valves

It all begins with a person’s heartbeat. When the heart pumps, blood flows from the body and the lungs into the right and left atrium. At the bottom of these chambers are the tricuspid and mitral valves. As the atria fills up, these two valves open to allow blood flow into the right and left ventricles.

As the ventricles fill up, the tricuspid and mitral valves close to prevent the blood from returning to the atria. Once full, the ventricles contract and pump blood through the pulmonary and aortic valves. On one hand, the pulmonary valve brings the blood to the lungs in order to pick up oxygen.

Meanwhile, the aortic valve allows blood to flow from the left ventricle into the main artery that carries the blood from the heart to the rest of the body. As the ventricles contract, the pulmonary and aortic valves shut so that blood does not return into the ventricles.

With each heartbeat, this process repeats itself causing the continuous flow of blood throughout the heart, lungs, and body.

The heart valves are important in preventing the backward flow of blood to avoid mixing the oxygen-poor blood with the oxygen-rich blood. Consequently, when one or more of the heart valves do not open or close properly, a person suffers from heart valve disease.

The types of heart valve prolapse

One type of heart valve disease is valvular prolapse. This occurs when the valves do not close properly because the flaps either slip out of place or bulge upward. As a result of the uneven or improper closure, blood may leak backward, disturbing the normal forward direction of the blood flow.

Here are the types of heart valve prolapse:

Mitral valve prolapse

Mitral valve prolapse is the more common type of heart valve prolapse. It is also known as click-murmur syndrome, Barlow’s syndrome, or floppy valve syndrome.

This occurs when the two flaps of the mitral valve do not close properly. A part or the entire flap of the mitral valve bulges–or prolapses–upward into the left atrium whenever the two ventricles contract.

Tricuspid, pulmonary and aortic valve prolapse

The other types of heart valve prolapse affects the other valves. As in the first case, the valve flaps or leaflets fail to fully close into a tight seal.

A tricuspid prolapse usually affects three leaflets.

Detection and treatment of heart valve prolapse

For a mitral valve prolapse, the cause can be attributed to genetics, such as when a person is born with the risk of developing this type of heart valve prolapse.

Heart valve prolapse can also be caused by medical conditions, such as people with connective-tissue diseases, like Marfan syndrome, which are diseases that affect certain tissues in the body.

The types of heart valve prolapse are mostly harmless and may even go undetected without any effect on a person’s health.

However, some symptoms include:

  • chest discomfort
  • feeling of heart beating fast or beating hard (palpitations)
  • Fatigue, fainting, or feeling dizzy

Because the leaflets of the mitral valve prolapse, the valve tissues become stretchy. As a result, the valve leaks a small amount of blood, which may cause a heart murmur.

A physician can conduct a routine physical examination through a stethoscope to determine the existence of murmur. Your doctor will hear a “click” when he listens to your heart with a stethoscope.

In case a heart murmur is detected, an echocardiogram is usually the next step. This test makes use of sound waves to create a picture of the heart as it beats.

This will determine the amount of blood leaking from the valve into the chambers. An angiogram may also be needed.

Treatment of mitral valve prolapse depends on whether the symptoms and the heart function are getting worse. Sometimes, treatment is not required save for prescribed medication or simple prevention of complications. This type of heart valve prolapse rarely become a serious condition.

However, it becomes serious when the mitral valve prolapse results in abnormal heartbeats or when there is too much valve leakage that may further cause complications, like stroke. It is always best to consult with a doctor for how to manage the condition.

Key Takeaways

Heart valve disease occurs when the heart valves do not work well. A prolapse is when the valve flaps fall out of place. There are two types of heart valve prolapse, with mitral prolapse as the more common of the two.

Generally, this type of condition is harmless although it is best to be diagnosed in order to prevent serious complications.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Valvular Heart Disease https://www.heartandstroke.ca/heart/conditions/valvular-heart-disease  Accessed April 21, 2020

National Heart Valve Disease Awareness Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) The Revolutionary Catheter Technique for the Heart Valve Disease https://www.stlukes.com.ph/health-library/health-articles/national-heart-valve-disease-awareness-transcatheter-aortic-valve-replacement-tavr-the-revolutionary-catheter-technique-for-the-heart-valve-disease Accessed April 21, 2020

Heart Valves https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/17067-heart-valves Accessed April 22, 2020  Mitral Valve Prolapse https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-valve-problems-and-disease/heart-valve-problems-and-causes/problem-mitral-valve-prolapse Accessed April 22, 2020 Heart Valve Disease https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/heart-valve-disease  Accessed April 22, 2020 Tricuspid Valve Prolapse https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/tricuspid-valve-prolapse Accessed April 23, 2020; Chapter 23, Elsayed Elmistekawy, Thierry G. Mesana, in Atlas of Cardiac Surgical Techniques (Second Edition), 2019
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Written by Maielle Montayre Updated Aug 01, 2020
Medically reviewed by Mike-Kenneth Go Doratan, M.D.