"When I meet a family, the first thing I say is, 'As parents and clinicians, we are your child's team.' The parents are the ones who know their child best. It's my job to educate parents so that they have the knowledge to make the right decision for their child."
–Betsy Blume, MD, Children's cardiologist
The human heart can be compared to a busy factory with two powerful pumps—the ventricles—and two “unloading docks,” called the atria. These chambers maintain a delicate balance, ensuring that oxygen-rich blood moves out into the body and that de-oxygenated blood comes back to the heart and lungs. Just like any other factory, however, the heart’s essential functions can be seriously disrupted if just one piece of machinery is compromised.
The mitral valve is a one-way valve in the left side of the heart that allows blood to fill its “pump,” the left ventricle. When a child has mitral valve stenosis (also known simply as "mitral stenosis"), her mitral valve cannot open fully—creating a problematic blockage. The blockage can stop blood from flowing freely to fill the left ventricle, and as a result, insufficient blood may be pumped out to supply the body’s needs.
Many children with mitral valve stenosis do not show any outward symptoms, but some will experience rapid breathing or slow growth and weight gain.
- Often, mitral valve stenosis is caused by a heart defect present at birth.
Children can also develop mitral valve stenosis as a complication of rheumatic fever, though the disease is rare in the United States.
Children with more advanced mitral valve stenosis are likely to require interventional catheterization or valve surgery.
However, some kids with mitral valve stenosis don’t need any immediate treatment. Many children do very well for a long time with regular monitoring by their treatment team.
Mitral valve stenosis can affect each child differently. Your physician is the best resource for providing detailed information about your child’s individual situation and making recommendations about the treatment plan that best meets the needs of your child and your entire family.
The detailed information on the following pages will help you gain a better understanding of mitral valve stenosis, and a clearer picture of what to expect in the weeks and months ahead.
How Boston Children's Hospital approaches mitral valve stenosis
The cardiologists, cardiac surgeons and nurses, cardiovascular imaging professionals and other clinicians in Boston Children’s Hospital Cardiovascular Program have extensive experience treating mitral valve stenosis in children, adolescents and adults.
Our specialized training in pediatric cardiology means that we understand the unique challenges, circumstances and intricacies of working with young people who have mitral valve stenosis and other heart problems. In addition to our medical expertise, we provide patient-centered care that always recognizes your child as an individual—and we offer resources to meet the needs of your entire family.
With more than 80 cardiac experts on our staff, Children’s operates the largest pediatric heart program in the nation. Every year, we treat thousands of patients who are living with mitral valve stenosis and a broad spectrum of other cardiac problems—ranging from congenital heart defects to blood vessel disorders, heart and lung disease and congestive heart failure.
We use the most sophisticated diagnostic and imaging procedures, including echocardiography and interventional catheterization, and offer dozens of specialized services in such areas as heart valve replacement, cardiac anesthesia, robotic surgery and fetal cardiology.
Our Department of Cardiology and Department of Cardiac Surgery clinicians will work closely with you to determine the right treatment plan for your child. We consider you an invaluable member of the treatment team, and always welcome your input and questions.
Watch a valve implantation procedure at Boston Children's
View the webcast
Mitral valve stenosis: Reviewed by Audrey Marshall, MD
© Boston Children's Hospital, 2010