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Mitral Valve Regurgitation

The mitral valve controls blood flow between the heart's upper and lower chambers on the left side. In a healthy heart, the valve's two leaflets – flaps that open and shut like a double door – form a tight seal each time they close, which keeps the blood moving in the right direction. In mitral valve regurgitation, the flaps don't seal well, which allows blood to leak backward and forces the heart to work harder to pump blood out to the body. This can cause shortness of breath and fatigue. If the backflow, or regurgitation, is severe enough, the heart may enlarge over time as a way to maintain blood flow, and this can lead to pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the lungs) and heart failure.

At the UCSF Heart Valve Disease Clinic, interventional cardiologists and cardiothoracic surgeons provide comprehensive care for mitral valve regurgitation. Our experts offer the full range of treatments, from medications to minimally invasive valve repair or replacement to open-heart surgery.


Mitral valve regurgitation can be caused by a problem with the valve itself, a condition called primary mitral valve regurgitation. The problem may be a birth defect, damage from rheumatic fever or – most commonly – deterioration of the valve flaps that occurs with aging.
In secondary (or functional) mitral valve regurgitation, the condition is caused by coronary artery disease (narrowing of the heart's arteries) or cardiomyopathy (diseases of the heart muscle).

UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.