Mitral Valve Prolapse (MVP) - Diagnosis

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How is mitral valve prolapse diagnosed and evaluated?

Examination of the patient reveals characteristic findings unique to mitral valve prolapse. Using a stethoscope, a clicking sound is heard soon after the ventricle begins to contract. This clicking is felt to reflect tightening of the abnormal valve leaflets against the pressure load of the left ventricle. If there is associated leakage (regurgitation) of blood through the abnormal valve opening, a "whooshing" sound (murmur) can be heard immediately following the clicking sound.

Echocardiography (ultrasound imaging of the heart) is the most useful test for mitral valve prolapse. Echocardiography can measure the severity of prolapse and the degree of mitral regurgitation. It can also detect areas of infection on the abnormal valves. Valve infection is called endocarditis and is a very rare, but potentially serious complication of mitral valve prolapse. Echocardiography can also evaluate the effect of prolapse and regurgitation on the functioning of the muscles of the ventricles.

Abnormally rapid or irregular heart rhythms can occur in patients with mitral valve prolapse, causing palpitations. A 24-hour Holter monitor is a device that takes a continuous recording of the patient's heart rhythm as the patient carries on his/her daily activities. Abnormal rhythms occurring during the test period are captured and analyzed at a later date. If abnormal rhythms do not occur every day, the Holter recording may fail to capture the abnormal rhythms. These patients then can be fitted with a small "event-recorder" to be worn for up to several weeks. When the patient senses a palpitation, an event button can be pressed to record the heart rhythm prior to, during, and after the palpitations.

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Comment from: AmandaEmily, 25-34 Female (Patient) Published: July 19

I was diagnosed with mitral valve prolapse when I was 8 years old. I would get stabbing chest pains and had an irregular heartbeat. I remember having an ultrasound of my heart and that confirmed the MVP. When I was born 3 months premature in 1985 I had open heart surgery to close a valve that did not do so on its own, the scar is now clear under my left shoulder blade I as have gown ALOT since birth. I still follow the diet that excludes caffeine and stimulants. Always pre medicated for dental visits (all though in the past few years they tell me that the standards have changed and I no longer need to take the antibiotics) I still get stabbing chest pain occasionally and/or anxiety, usually brought on by stress or a lot of physical activity. Fatigue had been a big problem for me since I have been a child. I am the only one in my family to have MVP. I have learned to live with it.

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Comment from: Sgeorge, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: June 06

I am 42 and was diagnoised with MVP three years ago. Mine condition is not severe and may have gone undetected except that I went to the doctor after feeling an occasional flutter in my chest. To my it felt like butterflies and I would also get light-headed. MY PCP examined me and noticed a murmur. I was sent to the cardiologist for an ultrasound and a 24-hour Holter monitor which confirmed the MVP diagnosis.

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