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Learn about mitral regurgitation

Learn about the symptoms and treatments from our specialists

What is mitral regurgitation? When a valve doesn’t close as tightly as it should, some blood can leak or flow backwards into the chamber it comes from. Regurgitation happens more often in the mitral valve, which is between the left atrium and left ventricle.

“Valve prolapse” is another term that’s often used to describe why regurgitation occurs. To use the example of the mitral valve: when the leaflets of the mitral valve prolapse, they flop back into the left atrium instead of closing tightly. This allows the blood to leak backwards into the left atrium. As a result, not enough blood is being pumped into the left ventricle.

As the condition worsens, the heart has to work harder to make up for the leaky valve. Even then, less blood may flow out of the left ventricle and to the rest of the body.

Regurgitation is also known as:

  • Valve insufficiency

  • Valve incompetence

  • Backflow

  • A leaky valve

Video Showing Mitral regurgitation and MitraClip procedure

The symptoms Often people have no symptoms of heart valve disease, at least at first. Over time symptoms can become noticeable.

Unfortunately, some people mistakenly think that the symptoms are simply signs of aging. As a result, these people may not go to the doctor. If you notice these symptoms, be sure to talk to your doctor to make sure it is not something more serious.

Symptoms can include:

  • Unusual fatigue (feeling more tired than usual)

  • Shortness of breath

  • Inability to do normal activities

  • Chest pain, pressure, or tightness

  • Fainting or dizziness

  • Palpitations, which feel like heavy, pounding heartbeats

  • Decline in activity level or reduced ability to do normal activities requiring mild exertion

  • Swelling in the feet, ankles, or abdomen

  • Heart murmur—a swishing sound, as blood flows through the valve, that a doctor can hear with a stethoscope

It’s important to know the symptoms of heart valve disease, and to be tested and treated by your doctor if necessary. If heart valve disease is not treated it can lead to heart failure, stroke, or sudden cardiac death. 


Heart valve disease most often arises because of age-related changes to the valve.

This occurs since, as people age, the shape or flexibility of the valve can change. Over time, calcium and other deposits can also thicken or stiffen heart valves.

In other people valve problems can develop as a result of illnesses or inherited (genetic) conditions:

  • Infection of the valves, called endocarditis

  • Rheumatic fever, as a result of an untreated strep infection

  • Heart attack

  • Heart failure

  • Heart valve conditions from birth

  • Family history of early-onset heart disease

  • Some autoimmune disorders such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis

  • Previous radiation therapy delivered near the heart

Because many heart valve problems develop as people age, heart valve disease is more common now than it was in earlier eras—simply because people today are living longer.

Today about 12% of people age 75 and older are estimated to have moderate-to-severe heart valve disease.

Procedure and surgery Previously, mitral valve surgery was the only option for treating mitral regurgitation. If you are not a candidate for surgery, there is a less-invasive treatment option. Transcatheter mitral valve repair (TMVr) with MitraClip therapy is a procedure that we may provide.

The procedure is included in the new medical guidelines for treating mitral regurgitation. Being less invasive than traditional open-heart surgery, patients are usually released from the hospital within 2 to 3 days.

Our Interventional Cardiologists perform the MitraClip Procedure at Loma Linda University Medical Center, Inland Valley Hospital, and Riverside Community Hospital

Test and diagnosis

Read "How to prepare before a MitraClip Procedure"


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