Mitral Valve Stenosis

What is mitral valve stenosis?

The human heart is a complex organ, and its proper functioning relies on the coordinated efforts of various components, including valves. One such valve, the mitral valve, plays a crucial role in regulating blood flow between the left atrium and left ventricle. However, when this valve undergoes a condition known as mitral valve stenosis, it can lead to serious health implications.

Mitral valve stenosis is a cardiac condition characterised by the narrowing of the mitral valve opening, restricting the smooth flow of blood from the left atrium to the left ventricle. This narrowing results from the thickening or stiffening of the valve’s leaflets, impairing its ability to open fully. Consequently, the heart must work harder to pump blood, leading to various symptoms and potential complications.

Types of mitral valve stenosis

Congenital mitral valve stenosis
Some individuals may be born with a narrowed mitral valve due to congenital factors. This form of stenosis is present from birth and requires careful monitoring and management throughout life.

Acquired mitral valve stenosis
Rheumatic fever, an inflammatory condition that can follow untreated streptococcal infections, is a common cause of mitral valve stenosis. Over time, the inflammation affects the mitral valve, leading to scarring and narrowing.
Infective endocarditis, conditions such as infective endocarditis, tumours, or blood clots that affect the mitral valve’s structure and function.

Causes of mitral valve stenosis

Mitral valve stenosis can manifest in different forms, and understanding these variations is essential for accurate diagnosis and treatment. The causes include:

  • Rheumatic fever
    As mentioned earlier, rheumatic fever is a major contributor to mitral valve stenosis. Prompt and adequate treatment of streptococcal infections can help prevent the development of rheumatic fever.
  • Congenital factors
    Some individuals may be born with a narrowed mitral valve due to congenital factors. This form of stenosis is present from birth and requires careful monitoring and management throughout life.
  • Genetic factors
    Genetic factors may contribute to the development of congenital mitral valve stenosis. Individuals with a family history of heart valve disease should be vigilant and undergo regular check-ups.
  • Infections
    Infective endocarditis, a bacterial infection affecting the heart valves, can lead to mitral valve stenosis if left untreated. Timely and appropriate antibiotic therapy is crucial in preventing this complication.

Symptoms of mitral valve stenosis

Recognising the symptoms of mitral valve stenosis is vital for early detection and intervention. Common signs include:

  • Shortness of breath
    Patients may have trouble breathing, especially during physical exertion, as the narrowed mitral valve hampers the efficient flow of oxygenated blood.
  • Fatigue
    The increased workload on the heart can result in fatigue and a general sense of weakness.
  • Heart palpitations
    Irregular heartbeats or palpitations may occur due to the heart’s struggle to pump blood through the narrowed mitral valve.
  • Swelling
    Fluid retention, leading to swelling in the legs and ankles, can be a manifestation of mitral valve stenosis.

Treatment available for mitral valve stenosis

Addressing mitral valve stenosis involves a combination of medical management and, in some cases, surgical intervention. Treatment options include:

  • Medications
    Certain medications, such as diuretics and blood thinners, may be prescribed to alleviate symptoms and prevent complications.
  • Balloon valvuloplasty
    This minimally invasive procedure involves threading a catheter with a balloon tip through blood vessels to the narrowed mitral valve. Inflating the balloon helps widen the valve opening, improving blood flow.
  • Surgical valve replacement
    In more severe cases, surgical intervention may be necessary. This can involve replacing it with a prosthetic valve. Minimally invasive mitral valve replacement is an advanced surgical technique that offers reduced recovery times and smaller incisions.

Risks and complications associated with mitral valve stenosis

Neglecting treatment for mitral valve stenosis can lead to several risks and complications, including:

  • Heart failure
    The increased workload on the heart can eventually lead to heart failure, where the heart cannot pump blood effectively to meet the body’s needs.
  • Blood clots
    Stagnant blood flow in the left atrium increases the risk of blood clots, which can travel to other parts of the body and cause serious complications, such as stroke.
  • Pulmonary hypertension
    The elevated pressure in the pulmonary arteries can lead to pulmonary hypertension, further straining the heart and causing respiratory difficulties.
  • Infective endocarditis
    The narrowed mitral valve is more susceptible to infections, increasing the risk of infective endocarditis.

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