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Barlows syndrome


Mitral valve prolapse is a heart problem in which the valve that separates the left upper and lower chambers of the heart does not open and close properly.

Alternative Names

Barlow's syndrome; Floppy mitral valve; Myxomatous mitral valve; Billowing mitral valve; Systolic click-murmur syndrome; Prolapsing mitral leaflet syndrome


The heart's mitral valve helps blood on the left side of the heart flow in one direction. It closes to keep blood from moving backwards when the heart beats (contracts).

If the valve does not open and close properly it is called mitral valve prolapse. It can be caused by many different things. In most cases, it is harmless and patients usually do not know they have the problem. In a small number of cases, it can cause blood to leak backwards (severe mitral regurgitation). This needs to be treated with surgery.

Some forms of mitral valve prolapse seem to be passed down through families (inherited). Mitral valve prolapse has been associated with Marfan syndrome (a disorder present from birth) and Graves disease.

Many people with mitral valve prolapse are thin women who may have minor chest wall deformities, scoliosis, or other disorders.

Some people with mitral valve prolapse may also have a hole in their heart called an atrial septal defect.


  • Sensation of feeling the heart beat (palpitations)
  • Chest pain (not caused by coronary artery disease or a heart attack)
  • Hard to breath after activity
  • Fatigue
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath when lying flat (orthopnea)
Note: There may be no symptoms or symptoms may develop slowly.

Exams and Tests

The doctor will perform a physical exam and use a stethoscope to listen to your heart and lungs. The doctor may feel a thrill (vibration) over the heart, and hear a heart murmur ("mid-systolic click"). The murmur gets louder when you stand up.

Blood pressure is usually normal.

The following tests may be used to diagnose mitral valve prolapse pr a leaky mitral valve:

  • Echocardiogram
  • Color-flow Doppler examination
  • Cardiac catheterization
  • Chest x-ray
  • ECG (may show arrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation)
  • Chest MRI
  • CT scan of the chest


Most of the time, there are no (or few) symptoms, and treatment is not needed.

If you have severe mitral valve prolapse, you may need to stay in the hospital. Surgery to repair or replace the valve may be needed if you have severe mitral regurgitation or your symptoms get worse.

Antibiotics are given if there is a bacterial infection or risk of one. If you have mitral valve prolapse with a leaky valve, antibiotics are usually give before dental work.

Other drugs that may be prescribed are listed below:

  • Anti-arrhythmics drugs help control irregular heart beats.
  • Vasodilators dilate (widen) blood vessels, which makes it easier for the heart to work.
  • Digitalis is used to strengthen the heartbeat.
  • Diuretics (water pills) help remove excess fluid in the lungs.
  • Propranolol is given for palpitations or chest pain.
  • Anticoagulants (blood thinners) help prevent blood clots in persons who also have atrial fibrillation.

Outlook (Prognosis)

How well a person does depends on what is causing the mitral valve prolapse. Most of the time, the condition is harmless and does not cause symptoms. Symptoms that do occur can be treated and controlled with medicine or surgery. However, some irregular heart beats (arrhythmias) associated with mitral valve prolapse can be deadly.

Possible Complications

  • Endocarditis -- valve infection
  • Severe leaky mitral valve (regurgitation)
  • Stroke
  • Clots to other areas
  • Irregular heart beats (arrhythmias), including atrial fibrillation

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of mitral valve prolapse.


You can't usually prevent mitral valve prolapse, but you can prevent certain complications. Tell your health care providers, including your dentist, if you have a history of heart disease or heart valve problems.

Antibiotics are often used to prevent infection, instead of after one develops. This is called prophylactic treatment. If you have mitral valve prolapse with a leaky valve, you will be given antibiotics before dental work or other surgeries to prevent bacteria from getting into your blood and causing dangerous infections. Some health care providers recommend antibiotics if you have moderate to severe mitral valve prolapse and a "click" (murmur) heard with a stethoscope.

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