Penn Study Indicates Atrial Fibrillation May Be Root Cause of Some Severe Mitral Regurgitation Cases

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Media Contact:Jessica Mikulski | jessica.mikulski@uphs.upenn.edu | 215-349-8369September 21, 2011

Mitral regurgitation is a common heart valve disorder, where blood flows backwards through the mitral valve when the heart contracts and reduces the amount of blood that is pumped out to the body. It is a serious condition with many foundational causes. Now, a new study from researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania has for the first time linked atrial fibrillation (AF) to some cases of mitral regurgitation (MR). The new study is published online in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

"To the best of our knowledge, our study is the first to elucidate the role of atrial fibrillation in causing some cases of mitral regurgitation," said Zachary Gertz, MD, lead study author and a cardiovascular fellow at Penn. "This new revelation may lead to better, more targeted treatments for patients with mitral regurgitation, and in some cases, help certain patients avoid invasive surgery to correct their MR."

In normal hearts, the flaps of the valve between the left atrium and the left ventricle come back together after each heartbeat. With mitral regurgitation, the valve does not seal completely and blood leaks back into the left atrium. This reverse flow forces the heart to work harder to circulate the blood and can result in shortness of breath, fainting, low blood pressure, fatigue, loss of appetite, and other symptoms.  If left untreated, patients with mitral regurgitation can suffer serious complications. In severe cases, patients may need heart surgery to repair or replace the leaky valve.

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