Mitral Valve Disease

Mitral valve disease can make it hard to breathe and eventually threaten your health. At Henry Ford Health, our innovative treatments can help you feel better and breathe easier. We keep you and your heart safe.

Why Choose Henry Ford to treat mitral valve disease?

While doctors have traditionally treated mitral valve disease with surgery, a newer approach can help people who can’t have an operation. Doctors use a vein to reach the heart with a thin tube (catheter), as well as a repair device or replacement valve.

We began using the transcatheter approach several years before other programs. We have completed more than 300 mitral valve repairs or replacements since that time, typically performing the most in Michigan.

This minimally invasive method avoids cutting open your chest and putting you on a lung-heart bypass machine. Recovery time is also substantially shorter. These minimally invasive therapies are not for everyone, or for every mitral valve disease. At the Center for Structural Heart Disease, we bring together specialists from multiple disciplines to recommend the best therapy for you. We also participate in leading clinical trials for new devices and valves.

How your mitral valve should work

Four valves control blood flow inside the heart. The mitral valve manages blood flow on the left side of the heart. It sits between the atrium (upper chamber) and the ventricle (lower chamber).

Normally, two flaps open to allow blood to flow from the atrium to the ventricle. The flaps then tightly close to stop blood from leaking backward.

What is mitral valve disease?

Mitral valve disease causes the valve to not open or close properly, making the heart pump harder. The two types of mitral valve disease are:

  • Stenosis (narrowing): The valve flaps become thick and stiff so that the valve doesn’t fully open. The narrowed opening reduces blood flow from the lungs to the heart. Blood then backs up into the lungs and causes fluid buildup.
  • Regurgitation: The flaps of the mitral valve don’t close completely or well. This allows some blood to leak backward from the left ventricle into the left atrium. The reduced blood flow causes the heart to enlarge and pump less efficiently.

Mitral valve disease can eventually cause complications such as blood clots, high blood pressure and a potentially dangerous heart beat known as atrial fibrillation. It can also lead to heart failure and stroke if untreated.

Causes of mitral valve disease

Mitral valve disease can be present at birth (congenital) or develop later in life (acquired):

  • Congenital mitral valve disease: People can be born with a narrowed mitral valve or they may have another birth defect that can lead to mitral valve stenosis.
  • Acquired mitral valve disease: This type of disease develops later in life from other heart disease, infection, rheumatic fever, or other damage to the valve.

Symptoms of mitral valve disease

Mitral valve disease progresses slowly. You may not experience symptoms in the early stages, then feel the affects as the disease worsens over time. Symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath, especially during exertion or while lying down
  • Fainting and dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Heart murmur
  • Racing, fluttering or pounding heartbeat
  • Heavy coughing, especially when lying flat
  • Swollen ankles or feet
  • Chest pain

Diagnosing mitral valve disease

Our doctors begin diagnosis with a thorough evaluation, which can occur at our main campus, Henry Ford Hospital, or Jackson (Henry Ford Allegiance) or Clinton Township (Henry Ford Macomb).

We want to learn about your symptoms, concerns and medical history during this visit, so we:

  • Perform a complete physical exam
  • Discuss your medical history and lifestyle
  • Review any previous tests or imaging studies
  • Recommend additional heart tests or scans, if needed

Leading treatment for mitral valve disease

Our team works together to develop your customized treatment plan after confirming a diagnosis. We offer the latest procedures to treat mitral valve disease, including:

  • Medication and monitoring: Medications don’t cure mitral valve disease, but they can help manage early symptoms. Our team can also help you with lifestyle changes such as healthy eating, exercise and giving up smoking.
  • Transcatheter mitral valve repair (TMVr) or replacement (TMVR): Doctors thread a catheter through a blood vessel to the heart, for a faster recovery and fewer complications. Since the mitral valve is complex, we use advanced 4D imaging for the best results. We may also create a 3D model of your heart for the most complex cases. Options for repair or replacement may include:
    • Minimally invasive repair: We specialize in a procedure that uses a tiny device to fix mitral regurgitation. In addition to this device, we’re exploring other repairs for mitral regurgitation.
    • Minimally invasive replacement: Some of the people who can’t have surgery need mitral valve replacement rather than repair. We’re involved in multiple clinical trials of replacement valves that could potentially offer an alternative to surgery. These trials are only available at certain centers — for one trial, we’re just one of seven U.S. programs asked to participate.
  • Surgery: Surgery still provides effective mitral valve treatment for many people. Learn more about Henry Ford heart surgery.
Get the heart care you need.
Let us help you schedule an appointment with a cardiologist.

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