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What Is Mitral Valve Prolapse?

Heart murmurs are common abnormalities of the heart valves which must open and close to control blood flow.  Mitral valve prolapse (MVP) is of particular interest to women because it is much more common in women.  There are also new criteria for its diagnosis and management.

MVP occurs when the mitral valve leaflets don't close completely, then get slightly pulled into the atrium of the heart.  Those with this condition are at greater risk for infection, so they have traditionally been told to take antibiotics whenever they have dental work or minor surgeries.  Using a relatively new imaging test called an echocardiogram, we now know that only a small percent of women with MVP really need antibiotic prophylaxis.  If you have been diagnosed with MVP, ask your doctor if you should have this test.  Then, ask if you still need routine antibiotics.

Many women have the diagnosis of MVP based upon their physical exam. Most women with MVP have no symptoms, but some feel palpitations, occasional sharp chest pains, or a skipped heart beat.  If you have these symptoms, ask your doctor if you should have an echocardiogram. 

Created: 12/4/2003  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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