Leaky Heart Valve Signals Danger

Mitral valve leak should be repaired to counter risk of heart rhythm problem

WEDNESDAY, July 10, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- People with a leaky heart mitral valve are at risk for a common, dangerous heart rhythm problem called atrial fibrillation, says a Mayo Clinic study.

Doctors should strongly consider surgical valve repair for these people, says the study, published in the latest issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

"Our findings suggest that we need to be much more aggressive about getting these patients into surgery," says study author Dr. Maurice Sarano, a Mayo Clinic cardiologist, in a prepared statement.

The study included 449 people with mitral regurgitation, a condition in which the mitral valve between the heart's left atrium and left ventricle doesn't close properly. That causes blood to shoot backward into the left atrium.

The Mayo researchers believe the pressure from this blood causes stress that enlarges the left atrium. That enlargement eventually leads to atrial fibrillation, which is characterized by irregular and inefficient contraction of the upper heart chambers.

All the people in the study had normal heart rhythms at the start of the study. However, within 10 years, almost half of them had atrial fibrillation. Those people had higher heart failure and death rates than the people who still had normal heart rhythm.

"This study suggests that a patient with mitral regurgitation who has an enlarged left atrium is likely on the way to atrial fibrillation," Sarano says.

"For these patients, surgery to correct the valve problem should be considered. Research into medical therapies to reduce pressure on the atrium must continue, but given the very low risks of surgical repair and the high risks of atrial fibrillation and its negative consequences, this tilts the balance in the direction of the surgical approach. At the very least, these patients should be monitored for the onset of atrial fibrillation," his statement adds.

More information

If you have heart disease or at risk of getting it, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute offers this interactive site to help you lower your cholesterol.

Robert Preidt and Consumer news

Updated on June 15, 2022

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