Can mitral valve prolapse cause sudden death?
Mitral valve prolapse has been a source of much controversy and confusion in recent times.
You may have heard about life-threatening arrhythmias, deadly heart infections, and emergency surgeries in people who didn’t know they had the disease. You have possibly come across articles and reports on the Internet of mitral valve prolapse and sudden death in healthy individuals.
To complicate matters, some patients feel as though they are going to die from their symptoms, yet their doctors insist that there is little to worry about.
It is these events and inconsistencies that have created uncertainty among patients and medical professionals over time, but why all the confusion to start with?
Why so much MVP confusion and controversy?
Because technology advanced.
In the past, heart imaging techniques weren’t incredibly sophisticated, so mitral valve prolapse was largely over-diagnosed. As a result, incorrect symptoms and findings were attributed to the condition.
Later on, when patients with similar symptoms and findings as those with the ‘old’ MVP were diagnosed with the ‘new’ version, doctors realized that many people did not actually have the condition. Consequently, medical professionals became dismissive of the disease.
Another consequence was that people diagnosed before the technology developed had a hard time accepting that mitral valve prolapse was probably not the cause of their symptoms. Many eventually discovered that these were in fact caused by dysautonomia.
Is mitral valve prolapse fatal?
It can be fatal, but it’s important to note that there are different types of mitral valve prolapse.
Some forms increase the risk of MVP symptoms, complications, and death. Others are fairly benign and tend to not cause problems. Many patients living with mitral valve prolapse do not know that they have the condition. In these people, the risk of dying is about the same as that of any healthy person.
MVP has been associated with sudden death because autopsies performed on people who have died suddenly have often revealed that a mitral prolapse was present. What usually isn’t mentioned is that evidence of the condition can be found in a lot of people when closely examined.
Studies have shown that MVP can be diagnosed through echocardiography in up to 35 percent of randomly selected people, depending on the diagnosis criteria.
So can you die from mitral valve prolapse?
It is possible, but unlikely, that you will die from mitral valve prolapse, unless you have a severe form of the condition that causes serious complications. A more appropriate question to ask then would be if you can die from mitral valve regurgitation, congestive heart failure, or infective endocarditis.
Can mitral valve prolapse cause sudden death? At this stage, there’s no proof that it does, at least not in the mild form, but there is a possibility that it can. The MVP sudden death rate in people with the mild type is low – about the same as among the general population. Patients with thickened, damaged, and/or and severely prolapsing valves are probably at higher risk of dying suddenly or unexpectedly.
If you’ve been diagnosed with MVP, it’s important that you find out if the diagnosis was made the ‘old way’ or using the newer, more specific diagnostic criteria. Check with your doctor.