Testing for mitral valve prolapse
Lawrence Kline, MD, is a board-certified cardiologist on staff at Banner Estrella Medical Center. His office can be reached at (623) 298-5220.
Question: When I was 42, I had a checkup and my heart doctor said I have mitral valve prolapse but am fine. Three years ago, at age 62, I started on blood pressure medication and a heart doctor confirmed the mitral valve prolapse. Recently, another doctor listened to my heart and told me I don’t have the mitral valve prolapse. However, he wanted to have dye injected to show my heart. I’m a little squeamish about this test, having no problems other than high blood pressure. Is this a standard procedure or necessary?
Answer: Mitral valve prolapse is a condition that occurs when the valve between the top left chamber of your heart and the lower left chamber of your heart, the mitral valve, doesn’t open and close properly thus providing you with symptoms that can mimic a heart attack, such as shortness of breath, chest tightening, palpitations, or fatigue.
The mitral valve controls the blood flow through the left side of the heart. When open, it allows blood to flow into the heart’s left ventricle or main pumping station. A diseased or damaged valve does not seal completely, allowing blood to escape. This can cause a clicking sound and a murmur.
The best way to diagnose mitral valve prolapse is by a simple ultrasound exam of the heart called echocardiography. This test is non-invasive and takes about 15-20 minutes to complete. The results are typically available within 24 hours.
The test you were recommended to have, cardiac catheterization, is a minimally invasive procedure used to diagnose the presence of blockage in the blood vessels that supply the heart muscle with blood. Cardiac catheterization is commonly performed in patients who have recurrent chest pains or shortness of breath and those who have had a heart attack or an abnormal stress test result.
Cardiac catheterization is also commonly performed in those patients who have been diagnosed as having a serious heart valve problem that would warrant them undergoing heart valve replacement surgery. It is not normally used to diagnose mitral valve prolapse.