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When my fifteen-year-old sister had her physical for the basketball team, the doctor said she has something in her heart called "mitral valve prolapse."(Ask Doctor Cory)

Dear Dr. Cory:

When my fifteen-year-old sister had her physical for the basketball team, the doctor said she has something in her heart called "mitral valve prolapse." How do you get mitral valve prolapse? Is it serious?

Jessica Brady Baltimore, Maryland Dear Jessica:

As you probably know, the heart has four sets of valves that direct the flow of blood through the four chambers of the heart. The four chambers of the heart are the right atrium, the right ventricle, the left atrium, and the left ventricle. The heart valves make sure that the blood flows only one way. They keep the blood moving forward and prevent it from flowing backward. As blood flows from the left atrium into the left ventricle, it passes through the mitral valve.

There are two types of mitral valve prolapse: normal and pathologic. In normal mitral valve prolapse, the valve snaps when the heart beats, but blood does not flow back into the left atrium. In pathologic mitral valve prolapse, the mitral valve fails to close properly, so blood flows back into the left atrium. Because of this, the heart has to work a little harder to pump enough blood to the rest of the body.

Most people who have mitral valve prolapse were born with it. But it is often not noticed until the teenage years. Sometimes brothers or sisters also have it. So it would be a good idea to have your doctor give your heart a thorough checkup.

People with normal mitral valve prolapse usually do not need any special medicine or treatment. However, those who have pathologic mitral valve prolapse are at risk for a serious infection called bacterial endocarditis. To prevent this infection, these people must take antibiotics before any dental or surgical procedure.

See you next issue!
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Author:SerVaas, Cory
Publication:Children's Digest
Date:Mar 1, 1995
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