The mitral valve is located between the left atrium and the left ventricle and controls the flow of blood as it returns from the lungs before being pumped out to the body. It is a one-way valve that opens and closes with each heartbeat. When open, they allow blood to pass from the atrium into the ventricle. When closed, they prevent blood from returning to the atrium.

A healthy mitral valve maintains blood flow in one direction, from the atrium to the ventricle, and from the ventricle to the rest of the body. If the valve becomes damaged, surgery may be necessary to ensure proper blood flow through the heart.

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Mitral valve disease is often asymptomatic in its early stages. Over time, patients will notice common symptoms such as shortness of breath, lightheadedness, fatigue, racing or irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), and a dry cough.

Sometimes it can be identified as being caused by one of the following conditions:

  • Structural problems developed before birth called congenital valve disease
  • Acquired valve disease (problems that develop over time and can involve the structure of a valve).
  • Mitral stenosis – narrowing of mitral valve opening, restricting blood flow from the left atrium to the left ventricle
  • Mitral regurgitation – when the mitral valve leaks, causing blood to flow backwards through the heart and into the lungs

There are a variety of diseases and infections that can cause acquired valve disease. Two common ones are rheumatic fever (caused by an untreated bacterial infection) and endocarditis (an infection that causes deterioration or scarring of valves).

Your Inova cardiac surgeon is your best resource to determine which valve treatment is best suited to your individual situation.