Mitral valve prolapse occurs when one or both mitral valve leaflets bulges back into the left atrium toward the end of the heartbeat—causing the heart to not work properly. Mitral valve prolapse is fairly common, occurring in about 10 to 15 out of 100 people. Cardiologists often consider this condition benign because of the commonality amongst people.
Symptoms of Mitral Valve Prolapse
In many cases, mitral valve prolapse does not cause symptoms or interfere with everyday life. Because of this, it is often not diagnosed until adulthood. However, if a child is diagnosed, it is important to know what symptoms related to valve prolapse in order to distinguish them from signs of any other more serious heart issues.
Children with mitral valve prolapse may have symptoms such as:
- Feeling anxious
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Fainting episodes
At times, mitral valve prolapse can cause chest pain in children. Children generally describe the chest pain as “sharp”. It is not always clear whether chest pain in children is caused by the mitral valve prolapse or by another condition.
Chest pain in children is not usually life-threatening. However, call your child’s doctor if your child has chest pain that:
- Consistently occurs during physical exertion (exercise or sports)
- Creates pressure
- Occurs with other symptoms such as palpitations that last more than a few seconds, dizziness, fainting, or shortness of breath
Diagnosis and Treatment
In most cases, mitral valve prolapse is diagnosed during a routine exam when a doctor listens to the heart with a stethoscope and hears a click or murmur. If the doctor hears an unusual sound, he or she may refer your child to a pediatric cardiologist.
The cardiologist will do a thorough physical exam and listen to the heart. Then, the doctor may order tests such as an echocardiogram, referred to as an “echo”, and an electrocardiogram (EKC or ECG). These tests help determine what is causing the sound in the heart. If a child has mitral valve prolapse, the condition will most likely be seen on the echocardiogram during a heartbeat.
The majority of the time, children who are diagnosed with this condition will not need medical treatment. In fact, many people go through life not knowing they have a mild form of this condition and not experiencing symptoms. In a few cases, children may take medicine, such as blood pressure medication, to help the heart pump blood out to the body or and sometimes to give the heart a more regular heartbeat.
Leakage due to mitral valve prolapse may continue over years. In very rare circumstances, a child may need surgery to repair a leaking mitral valve.