Acquired valvular heart diseases may manifest as insufficiencies (i.e., the incomplete closure of the valve), as a stenosis (i.e., a narrowing of the valve), or as a combined valvular defect. In principle, all valves can be affected. The aortic valve stenosis and the mitral regurgitation are particularly frequent.
Gross pathology of heart showing mitral stenosis

Image: „Gross pathology of heart showing mitral stenosis” by CDC. Licence: Public Domain

Mitral valve stenosis is in most cases a long-term sequel of rheumatic fever. The severity may depend on the remaining open area and determines which symptoms occur.


Image: „Phonocardiograms from normal and abnormal heart sounds” by Madhero88. Licence: CC BY 3.0

Are you more of a visual learner? Check out our online video lectures and start your pathology course now for free!


Mitral valve stenosis refers to a narrowing of the mitral valve, which obstructs the filling of the left ventricle.


Causes of mitral valve stenosis

The most common cause of mitral valve stenosis is rheumatic fever, which however may date back many years. Therefore, asking the patient about history of frequent bacterial tonsillitis is important. Rarely, there may be congenital stenosis in the mitral valve area.


The 3 grades of severity of mitral valve stenosis

Mitral valve stenosis

Image: „Mitral Valve Stenosis” by Blausen Medical Communications, Inc. Licence: CC BY 3.0

Depending on the remaining open area,  mean pressure gradient and mean pulmonary capillary pressure, mitral valve stenosis can be divided into the severity grades of mild, moderate and severe. The mild grade has a pressure gradient of less than 7 mmHg, an opening area that is between 1.5 and 2 cm2, and a mean pulmonary capillary pressure of less than 20 mmHg.

The moderate grade has a mean pressure gradient of 8 – 15 mmHg, an opening area of 1 to 1.5 cm2, and a mean pulmonary capillary pressure of 21 – 25 mmHg. In severe mitral stenosis, the mean pressure gradient increases to more than 15 mmHg, the opening area drops below 1 cm2 and the mean pulmonary capillary pressure rises to more than 25 mmHg.


What happens in mitral valve stenosis?

Because of the stenosis of mitral valve, the blood cannot flow properly into the left ventricle. Thus, this causes a blood stasis in the left atrium, and the blood flows back into the lungs to the pulmonary veins, and ultimately in the right heart. Therefore, there is a risk of right heart failure and an increased risk of atrial fibrillation due to the overstretching of the left atrium. Atrial fibrillation may increase risk of embolization and may result in acute ischemia if the legs, stroke or mesenteric ischemia

Symptoms and Clinical Presentation

The severity of the disease determines which symptoms occur. The expansion of the left atrium may lead to atrial fibrillation and thrombi, and therefore to arterial embolisms. Due to the congestion of the blood in the lungs, this leads to pulmonary hypertension with symptoms such as dyspnea and nocturnal cough. Signs of right heart failure may also occur. The reduced cardiac output leads to performance degradation, fatigue, and peripheral cyanoses.

Progression and Special Types

The progression of mitral valve stenosis depends on the severity. Pulmonary edema and right heart failure are the leading causes of death. Arterial and pulmonary embolisms are also complications that are potentially fatal.


Auscultation of mitral valve stenosis

During auscultation, a loud first heart sound as well as a split second heart sound and a mitral opening snap can be heard. A mid diastolic rumbling murmur with can be best heard over the cardiac apex. A sign of reactive pulmonary regurgitation is the Graham Steel murmur. A presystolic crescendo murmur can be heard.

Radiological examination of mitral valve stenosis

An ECG may show a P with double peaks as well as a right ventricular hypertrophy mark, and a right axis deviation. A radiograph may also show a right heart enlargement as well as an enlarged left atrium, and a mitral configuration. During echocardiography, the valve can be readily assessed and a quantification of the grade of stenosis can be made. In addition, a cardiac catheterization can be performed for evaluation.


Treatment options of mitral valve stenosis

Conservative treatment options include drug treatment of heart failure and maintaining a normal frequency sinus rhythm, as well as thromboembolism and endocarditis prophylaxy. The catheter method offers the possibility of a mitral valve valvuloplasty, which can help avoid a large surgical intervention. Mitral valve replacement is the surgical treatment approach, which is indicated with a moderate stenosis or with failure of valvulopasty.

Heart valve repair

Image: „Mitral Valvuloplasty” by Blausen Medical Communications, Inc. Licence: CC BY 3.0


Complications of mitral stenosis include arterial embolism, bacterial endocarditis, and pulmonary edema.

Lecturio Medical Courses


ALLEX Alles fürs Examen Band A – Thieme 2012

Herold, Gerd u.a.: Innere Medizin 2015

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *