Leaky Heart Valve

What is a Leaky Heart Valve?

Mitral valve regurgitation is the other name for leaky heart valve. The heart has four valves; aortic valve, pulmonary valve, tricuspid valve, and mitral valve.

leaky heart valve

These valves keep the blood flowing in the right directions. Valve regurgitation occurs when the valve does not close correctly resulting to a backflow of blood. If it becomes severe, it will lead to further pressure of the heart for it to work much harder and cope up with the added volume of blood.

All the valves have flaps that open to let blood flow in a single direction to keep it from advancing to the heart’s chambers; soon the valves close to keep blood from returning to where it is just left.

Any of the valves may become leaky and some blood will ooze back through the valve after the heart pumps and compresses blood forward. In some cases, the condition is not noticeable at all, especially if there are no symptoms shown.

Signs & Symptoms

Many people who have mitral valve regurgitation often show no symptoms but could still have benefits if the mitral valve is repaired earlier.

The symptoms of mitral regurgitation will depend on the case of the condition or how it develops. Severe leaking might cause the symptoms of congestive heart failure and these are; swelling of the legs and shortness of breath.

As the blood flows backward, blood can’t move through the rest of the body, causing the person to have the difficulty in breathing especially when the body is lying on a flat surface and the tendency  is to get tired so easily. Other symptoms of leaky heart valves include:

  • Fatigue
  • Feeling lightheaded and weak
  • An uncomfortable feeling in the chest
  • Palpitations
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Heart murmur

What causes Leaky Heart Valves?

There are numerous of causes for a leaky heart valve which depends on where the heart valve is associated and how severe the regurgitation is. Some problems develop before the child is yet to be born, or can possibly develop over time. Some causes are still not known.

There are two classifications of mitral valve regurgitation, namely the primary, where abnormality is in the mitral valve; and the secondary where the abnormality is in the left ventricle. Possible causes could be:

  • Hypertension
  • Mitral valve prolapse
  • Congenital valve disease that involves of the wrong sizes or formation of the flaps.
  • Rheumatic fever
  • Bicuspid aortic valve disease wherein the number of leaflets is not normal causing the valve to be leaky as it lacks the third leaflet. This disease affects the aortic valve.
  • Endocarditis in which the heart valve is infected
  • Tissue cords that are damaged
  • Heart attack
  • Syphilis

Other causes can also be; a heart muscle disease, tumours, radiation therapy, traumas, and even some certain medications.

How to treat a Leaking Heart Valve?

Mitral valve regurgitation does not show right away and is frequently mild. No symptoms may be visible in a long period of time, making the person unaware of the condition which will lead to no progress if ever treatment is required. Treatments rely on the signs and symptoms or as to which valves are involved and if the condition is getting worse.

There are two major goals for the treatment and that is to reduce the signs and symptoms for the improvement of the heart’s function, and to avoid further complications in the future. Treatments may include:

  • Watchful waiting – This is for individuals who don’t need any treatment since the condition is lenient, but still require a physician’s monitoring and regular evaluation.
  • Medications – This depend on the valve leak type. The physician might prescribe; beta-blockers, diuretics, blood thinners, or anti-arrhythmic medications.


Surgical repair is still needed for mitral valve regurgitation even if no symptoms are shown. The person must talk with the physician first in order to understand the details and the surgery that suits best for the condition. Surgery options that a physician can recommend are:

  • Valve repair – Repairing can help conserve the valve which is more preferable. Surgeons remove the valve tissue that had exceeded or re-attach the valve leaflets.
  • Valve replacement – This surgery is for the people that have mitral valves that can’t be fixed. This requires a surgeon to substitute the damaged mitral valve with a biological or mechanical valve.
  • Robot-assisted heart surgery – The surgeon uses robotic arms for the conduction of the mitral valve repair.
  • Ministernotomy
  • Thoracoscopic surgery

Life Expectancy

Having a leaky heart valve can reduce the quality of life and possibly limits the life expectancy because of its secondary effects. The first option for most patients is the valve repair. If a person is not aware of the condition or if no treatments had been done to get better, it will surely become acute, leading to a shortened life expectancy.


    1. Mitral valve regurgitation Overview, Symptoms & causes, Diagnosis & treatment, Self-management at http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mitral-valve-regurgitation/home/ovc-20121849.
    2. Heart Health Center; What Is a Leaky Heart Valve?, How Is a Leaky Heart Valve Diagnosed?, Symptoms of a Leaky Heart Valve Leaky Heart Valve and Aortic Regurgitation, Leaky Heart Valve and Mitral Regurgitation, Leaky Heart Valve and Tricuspid Regurgitation, Leaky Heart Valve and Pulmonary Regurgitation, Living With a Leaky Heart Valve at http://www.webmd.boots.com/heart-disease/guide/leaky-heart-valve
    3. http://www.webmd.com/heart/leaky-heart-valve-symptoms-causes-treatments
    4. Nishimura RA, et al. (2014). 2014 AHA/ACC guideline for the management of patients with valvular heart disease: A report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Circulation, published online March 3, 2014.
    5. Otto CM, Bonow RO. Valvular heart disease. In: Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, eds.Braunwald’s Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine
    6. Nishimura. RA, Otto CM, Bownow RO et al. 2014 AHA/ACC Guideline for the Management of Patients With Valvular Heart Disease: A report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines.J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg

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