Mitral valve prolapse is a type of heart valve disease that affects the valve between the left heart chambers. The flaps (leaflets) of the mitral valve are floppy. They bulge backward (prolapse) like a parachute into the heart's left upper chamber as the heart squeezes (contracts).

Mitral (MY-trul) valve prolapse sometimes causes blood to leak backward across the valve, a condition called mitral valve regurgitation.

Heart showing mitral valve prolapse and regurgitation

Mitral valve prolapse and regurgitation

The mitral valve separates the two chambers (atrium and ventricle) of the left side of the heart. In mitral valve prolapse, the leaflets of the mitral valve bulge (prolapse) into the left atrium like a parachute during the heart's contraction. Sometimes mitral valve prolapse causes blood to leak back into the atrium from the ventricle, which is called mitral valve regurgitation.

Usually, mitral valve prolapse isn't life-threatening and doesn't require treatment or lifestyle changes. But some people may need medications or surgery, especially if the prolapse causes severe regurgitation.

Other names to describe mitral valve prolapse include:

  • Barlow syndrome
  • Billowing mitral valve syndrome
  • Click-murmur syndrome
  • Floppy valve syndrome
  • Mitral prolapse
  • Myxomatous mitral valve disease


Signs and symptoms of mitral valve prolapse are due to the amount of blood leaking backward through the valve.

Mitral valve prolapse symptoms can vary widely from one person to another. Many people with mitral valve prolapse don't have noticeable symptoms. Other people may have mild symptoms that develop gradually.

Symptoms of mitral valve prolapse may include:

  • A racing or irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia)
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, especially during exercise or when lying flat
  • Fatigue

When to see a doctor

If you have symptoms of mitral valve prolapse, make an appointment with your health care provider. Many other conditions can cause similar symptoms.

If you're having sudden or unusual chest pain or think you're having a heart attack, seek emergency medical care immediately.

If you've been diagnosed with mitral valve prolapse, see your provider if your symptoms worsen.


To understand the causes of mitral valve disease, it may be helpful to know how the heart works.

The mitral valve is one of four valves in the heart that keep blood flowing in the right direction. Each valve has flaps (leaflets) that open and close once during each heartbeat. If a valve doesn't open or close properly, blood flow through the heart to the body can be reduced.

In mitral valve prolapse, one or both of the mitral valve leaflets have extra tissue or stretch more than usual. The leaflets can bulge backward (prolapse) like a parachute into the left upper heart chamber (left atrium) each time the heart contracts to pump blood.

The bulging may keep the valve from closing tightly. If blood leaks backward through the valve, the condition is called mitral valve regurgitation.

Risk factors

Mitral valve prolapse can develop in any person at any age. Serious symptoms of mitral valve prolapse tend to occur most often in men older than 50.

Mitral valve prolapse can occur in families (be inherited) and may be linked to several other conditions, including:

  • Ebstein anomaly
  • Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
  • Graves' disease
  • Marfan syndrome
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Scoliosis


Potential complications of mitral valve prolapse may include:

  • Mitral valve regurgitation. The mitral valve flaps don't close tightly. Blood flows backward when the valve is closed, making it harder for the heart to work properly. Being male or having high blood pressure increases the risk of mitral valve regurgitation.
  • Heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias). Irregular heartbeats may occur if mitral valve prolapse leads to severe regurgitation and swelling of the upper left heart chamber (atrium).

Mar 27, 2024

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