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Richard N. Fogoros, M.D.

Does Mitral Valve Prolapse Cause Sudden Death?

By October 9, 2007

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News reports yesterday and today are filled with stories about the runner who collapsed and died during Sunday's Chicago Marathon. After performing an autopsy, the reports say, the Chicago medical examiner announced that this man's death definitively was not due to the oppressive heat and humidity that caused significant problems among many runners during the event (and which eventually caused organizers to stop the race), but instead was due to "mitral valve prolapse" (MVP). Presumably, then, the local officials responsible for going ahead with the race despite poor weather conditions were not responsible in any way for this man's death.

Obviously, I have no way of knowing the actual cause of this unfortunate runner's death, and I will not speculate on it. However, while it took local race officials off the hook, the Chicago medical examiner's confident pronouncement also may have created at least some degree of panic among up to 75 million Americans (by some estimates) who might also have MVP.

So, the question bears asking: Does MVP really cause sudden death?

The answer is that nobody really knows, but if it does, the excess risk posed by typical MVP is exceedingly small.

Evidence that MVP may be associated with sudden death comes mainly from autopsy series. When the heart is carefully examined in people who have died suddenly, something like 10% of them will turn out to have MVP. What is not mentioned in these studies is that when you carefully look for MVP in living people (using echocardiography), then depending on the diagnostic criteria used, at least 2% and up to 35% of the general population will receive the diagnosis of MVP.

The bottom line is that it is not at all clear that MVP - at least, the mild form of MVP that the vast majority of people diagnosed with this condition have - is even associated with sudden death, let alone a cause of sudden death. A small number of patients with MVP will eventually develop significant mitral regurgitation (valve leakage), which in turn can produce heart muscle weakness - and these patients clearly do have an increased risk of life threatening arrhythmias, as do any patients with cardiac muscle disease. It is not clear from news reports whether the Chicago marathoner may have had this severe form of MVP.

But the vast majority of patients with MVP have never been shown to have any higher risk of sudden death than the general population, and the recent tragedy in Chicago should not cause undue concern. Read more about MVP here.

October 9, 2007 at 8:02 am
(1) Stephen Day says:

Thank you for this post. I’m a “marathoner”, 36 year old man, three kids of my own, a patient with MVP and was running this very same race.

Reading the immediate reports, I was skeptical that the heat could be discounted so quickly.

While I’m familiar with the flip-flops of having MVP, I’ve never heard of it causing sudden death and can’t believe that the heat wasn’t a contributing factor.

Anyway, as a “sufferer” of MVP, it’s re-assuring to hear that this case shouldn’t be cause for significant/mass concern.

October 9, 2007 at 12:30 pm
(2) Tony D says:

My girlfriend is a cardiologist in Chicago, and called me rather upset after the medical examiner’s report.

She is in complete agreement with you, and feels it is irresponsible for the media to report that the runner’s death was caused by his heart, and the heat had nothing to do with it. Interestingly a couple of news organizations do appear to have been more cautious in their reporting.

October 9, 2007 at 10:50 pm
(3) Candace says:

Well, I am concerned. I am a 38 yo mom of 1. My heart is out of wack. I can feel it racing, skipping etc. In 97, i wore a heart holster, and had an echiocardiogram and was diagnosed with mvp and irregular heartbeat. I wasn’t told the severity of regurgatation etc. but, I am now very concerned, as, my heart does not beat normally. I always thought it was due to panic nerves, but, now I know different. I wish doctors would take this disease more seriously. It really makes me sick. They can treat alcholism in which the person chooses to drink, but, they can’t treat mvp, in which the person has no choice. :(

October 12, 2007 at 4:12 pm
(4) james gaulte says:

The MVP as COD (I watch CSI too much)did not sound right even to a retired pulmonary doc and I put my 2 cents worth in about it on my blog with a plea to measure the serum sodium in collapsed runners to Dx hyponatremia which if handled less than well may be fatal.

October 24, 2008 at 2:31 am
(5) Bereaved Father says:

20 years ago my 32 year old wife died suddenly in our kitchen. According to the autopsy it was due to mitral valve prolapse. She had been previoulsy diagnosed with MVP. I was left alone with three young children. I sill miss her today and wish that the doctors had taken her MVP more seriously

November 13, 2008 at 5:53 pm
(6) amy says:

My sister died two months ago. Aged 29. She left three boys behind, 8, 5, and a not quite 4 week old infant. The coroner’s report came back listing the cause of death as MVP. She went to sleep and didn’t wake up. Right or wrong, be aware, it can happen….

January 4, 2009 at 2:19 am
(7) Jacqueline says:

My fiance was diagnosed with mitral valve prolapse March 17, 2008. We were told by his cardiologist that he was at no risk of sudden cardiac death, but Mark died April 19, 2008 from a sudden cardiac death. His coroner stated Mark’s death was directly related to the prolapsed mitral valve.

January 15, 2009 at 12:52 pm
(8) Connie says:

My mother was diagnosed with MVP with leakage and was scheduled for open heart surgery to correct the problem. She was told to maintain her current activities (which she did)as people do not die from this condition. She went for her pre-op physical, 10 days prior to her surgery, was told she is fine and ready for surgery. She collapsed and died suddenly that same evening. I can’t help but think it was due to the MVP.

March 8, 2009 at 11:42 am
(9) Rose says:

My 17 year old brother collapsed and died instantly at his highschool 3 months ago due to Mitral Valve Prolapse. He had never been diagnosed with this condition, we had no idea until he died instantly.

March 23, 2009 at 8:54 am
(10) tony says:

wow i always knew mvp was a heart problem to be aware of being that i do have it and a irregular heart beat and play all types of sports since i am only 20. i also work in construction. Aside from the doctor telling me to take it ez i can only help but think if i am going to die then i might as well enjoy my life. Heart problems run in my family. my grandfather died of a heart attack before i was born and my other died receintly with every type of cancer you can think of.

December 8, 2010 at 4:25 pm
(11) John says:

I am a survivor of multiple cardiac arrests (VF) and the only thing that appears wrong with me is MVP that progressed from mild/mod (when I had mny first SCA) to now severe. I have been to many different doctors. I was just seen by some doctors at the Mayo Clinic in MN who feel there is very strong evidence to link my history of arrhythmias with the progression of the mitral valve prolapse. One doctor in particular specifically mentioned that the records he had seen on me suggested a “multi-focal papillary muscle triggered ventricular arrhythmia,” but nothing was yet ruled out and more analysis was still underway. I am now a candidate for a MV repair.
The doctors there feel strongly that MVP plays a role in sudden cardiac death, but the real question is why is it so lethal in a small subset of the overall MVP population.

January 17, 2011 at 3:09 pm
(12) AC says:

Hi everyone.

I’m a student right now studying ultrasound so I am by no means a professional, but I thought I would let you know what I’ve learned. From what I understand MVP eventually causes a condition called arrhythmia which is what causes sudden death. Arrhythmia essentially means “no-rhythem” or no-heartbeat.

Arrhythmia occurs in this condition because over time the chambers of the heart gets backed up with blood due to the aortic valve not effectively projecting blood out into the body. Within the chambers of the heart is an electrical system that sends a signal telling the heart to beat (pump blood).

A heart with MVP over time will become so backed up with blood the lining of the heart dilates and the electrical signal that runs between the chambers of the hearts become altered and which stops the signal to pump (heart beat) and this leads to sudden death. MVP occurs often in middle aged women and usually will not show any symptoms, until arrhythmia occurs which is why it’s a shocking thing.

April 24, 2011 at 5:25 pm
(13) Bob says:

is it possible for a person under 14 to have MVP and die from it? i need to know because i have no knowledge of it

June 13, 2011 at 12:44 pm
(14) Tatiana Ghosn says:

OH MY GOD im a MVP patient and now i’m so scared…. I don’t want to die due to a Sudden death :(
i have a heart leak, arrythmias, palpitation, anxiety and all the symptoms caused by the MVP :(

July 9, 2011 at 9:11 pm
(15) Marcy Miilligan says:

I have had mitral valve prolapse for over 35 yrs and have learned to live with it for the most part. I can tell you that there are three definite things that set it off. Heat/Humidity is first. I cannot tolerate a very high temperature in that my heart starts to pound – I feel weak – and know I better find a cool place to rest and stay there. Extreme fatigue is the next — if you have MVP don’t get overtired…… AND lastly…
being emotionally upset. Of the three – the heat is the worst for me. I always know when I’m having an ‘attack’.. in that my chest hurts – increased palpitations – pounding – and I feel a weakness. Couple of days and it’s gone. To all the other sufferers of this – good luck and take care of yourselves.

September 18, 2011 at 8:31 pm
(16) Dev says:

I’m 14 and i was 8 when my 21 year old cousin passed away in her sleep during college. She had MVP and knew too but you never really think you die from it cause it’s like 1 in 1000000 chance but i guess she was that one. You can’t really stop it.

October 10, 2011 at 2:48 pm
(17) Jen says:

I too have MVP and MVPS, irregular hearbeats, ect and on and off I suffer pretty bad with a multitude of different symptoms relating to this. After reading some of these posts regarding people suddenly dying from it, my initial feeling was fear. BUT…#1 The Lord has not given us the spirit of fear. #2 Live every day as your last anyway beacause we are not granted another day. #3 We’re all terminal no matter which way you look at it. No sense in worrying about this since any one of us could be taken in another way at any time. #4 Be smart about it, do the research like…eat heart healthy, drink water, stay away from caffiene, exercise is good for you and it’ll help you more than hurt, remember your heart is a muscle and in order for it to get strong you need to work it but start out slow and gradually increase as you tolerate it, listen to your body and what it’s telling you. Of course it’s always recommended you see a doctor prior to starting a new exercise progam. MOST IMPORTANTLY…life is short so be positive which side you are on because death is just the beginning!! Jesus Saves!

November 12, 2011 at 11:36 am
(18) Helene says:

I lost my 23 years old son to mvp and arrythmias, it had happened to him twice before, each time we were told that he overdosed, so when he was found dead we assumed that it was an overdose. The autopsy and toxicology report came back. cause of death not drug related. Now we left wandering what happened, could a simple EEG could have prevented his death? If someone know of an organization who we can talk too please let me know. thank you

January 2, 2012 at 3:10 am
(19) miss my love says:

my 27 yr old boyfriend just died dec 25, 2011. Autopsy said of a large floppy mitral valve. he was laughing and singing on the couch one minute, then had a seizure the next . went in cardiac arrest .help was there in less than 5mins, they tried so hard to save him, but he pretty much died instantly. didn’t know he had the condition, never had any symptoms….

January 9, 2012 at 9:25 am
(20) lynda says:

My mum died suddenly at 60yrs old on holiday in turkey , her postmortem report says MV failure. My mum had no known history of heart troubles and her only health issue was arthritis and HJM. Prior to mum going on holiday she had a persistant cough for 3 months, (non smoker) and her gp had suggested that they book her in for a chest xray on return from holiday as her chest sounded clear on ausiltation. Mum never got to attend that appointment. I have recently been diagnosed with hyperjoint mobility and ? ehlers danlos syndrome . One of its forms is type IV this involves mitrial valve prolapse, vascular type. My mum may have had this from what i know of the symptoms and her mother also died at 60yrs old with mitrial valve failure , fluid engulfed heart due to regurgitation. I am 38yrs old and due to recent HJM diagnosis want to get my heart checked also , How do I ask my GP without sounding like a hyperchondriac to check my heart for MVP, Ehlers danlos IV they know can be genetic linked.

February 14, 2012 at 6:42 am
(21) Leslie says:

I was diagnosed to have mvp for the last 2 years, i was admitted to the hospital twice due to heart attack. I was in coma for 5 hours before. The doctor said that i need to have a mitral valve replacement. I just want to know if is there a possibility that mvp can cause death due to emotional and physical stress?? Im working in a call center, is it risky??

May 22, 2012 at 10:40 am
(22) Kerri says:

My fiance passed away April 14, 2012 and I just found out today (5/22/12) that it was from a MVP. He was a 31 year old athlete and never had ever experienced problems before. :( I found him in bed the next day and I just have been praying that he went peacefully and that there is nothing anyone could have done at that moment to save him. I’m so sorry for all the families out there who have also lost someone so unexpectedly from this. It was nothing I ever thought in a million years would happen, nor did he. We were going to be married in a few months. :(

May 31, 2012 at 8:09 am
(23) Kiran Kumar says:

My wife aged 31 years is passed away on 10th May 2012, she spoke to me at 12:00 PM for about 10 mins and by 12:45 she fell down in the corridor while talking on the phone with sudden cardiac arrest. she was diagnosed with MVP in 2008 and our doctor said that nothing to worry as it is most common in 2% of population and most of the people do not even know that they have MVP issue.infact we completely forgot about MVP. But after her death i realized that MVP can cause a sudden death and if any one daignosed with MVP should undergo periodic health check up and take necessary precautions as the pain is unbearable in case of sudden death of our beloved one.

June 3, 2012 at 6:54 pm
(24) KimH says:

My prayers go out to all of those who have lost a loved one due to MVP. Ever since I was a child I had problems with palpitations, which turned into panic attacks by the age of 17. Finally in my late 20s the palpitations/tachycardia were so unbearable that I was prescribed beta blockers, which help somewhat (I’m now 40). Not once though did any doctor suggest that an echo be done to rule out any abnormalities, which upsets me now thinking back. Finally after recently being brushed off by my GP, telling me that I just have bad “anxiety” and thought I should try Wellbutrin, I decided to take matters into my own hands and made an appt. to see a cardiologist. I found out back in April that I have MVP with trace regurgitation, and finding this out gave me some relief in realizing that my symptoms weren’t all “in my head”. By the same token, reading that MVP can cause sudden death really scares me, but unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be much I can do about it. :-( I will try not to dwell on it and live a healthy lifestyle as much as possible. Thinking positively also can’t hurt, though that can be hard to do on a bad day.

I agree with the one person’s comment…If there is a cure for alcoholism, why isn’t there a cure for MVP (such as fixing the faulty valve??…) I realize that mitral valve prolapse can be part of other disorders/syndromes, so perhaps it’s not that simple to fix.
Best of health to all of you and take care!

February 4, 2013 at 9:38 pm
(25) Rv says:

I have been a runner for 15 years I feel my MVP has slowed me down . Because I get pains in my chest , just an over all funny feeling when I run doc said 3 years ago my heart was strong I’m 47 years old guess it’s time to go back to the doctor. Started to get a cough when my heart starts to beat crazy what should I do??? Thanks. :) RV

February 7, 2013 at 10:52 am
(26) H. M. says:

I came upon this website hoping to find more information about Mitral Valve Prolapse. My 31 year old sister died suddenly in her sleep October 2012. She was a very active person and was a runner who ran a full marathon 1 1/2 years before her death. There were signs of complications before her death. The autopsy says the cause of death was Cardiac Dysrhythmia Due to Mitral Valve Prolapse. The siblings were highly recommended to be evaluated. The heart doctor that I saw recently has a hard time believing the report. He say’s people don’t die from this. From what I see online and hear from the medical field, it is a rarity however I guess it does happen.

February 9, 2013 at 3:00 am
(27) RV says:

My heart goes out to everyone who have lost a loved one from MVP . And my prayers are with you. It’s time the doctors stop acting like MVP is nothing . Because that is just the way I feel when I go to my doctors office. Its just a scary feeling . By the way my mom has it and my daughter has it . But the told her in high school that she out grew it I told her always keep an eye on that I don’t see how you can out grow it then again I’m not a Dr she needs a second opinion .thanks Rv

March 8, 2013 at 12:25 pm
(28) Nic says:

Reading all of these comments scare me. I’ har MVP and have had about 25 fainting episodes since 13. I’m 36. Yet the doctors don’t think that’s abnormal. Constantly tired tingly coughing due to fluttering. Can’t do any cardio or high intensity exercise because I collapse during the work out. I wish doctors would take this more serious. It’s not fun living life having these daily struggles and worries

March 25, 2013 at 1:42 am
(29) BrizGirl says:

My husband’s 31 year old cousin passed away from MVP (she had not been diagnosed as yet but was getting tests done for symptoms) suddenly 2 years ago leaving behind 2 small children (age 2 & 4) who unfortunately were the only ones home at the time and witnessed it. Better to be safe than sorry – get heaps of check ups and treatment. Any percent is a percent too many :(

May 11, 2013 at 10:47 pm
(30) damean D says:

I’m 13yrs old my mom now has mvp I’m scared that my mom will just leave me nd my other brothers nd sister behind I’m the oldest and next comes a 9yr old I’m very scared reading these comments thinking something is goin to my mother I wish I can do something to stop this.I will pray every night hoping god answers my prayers.my mom is a wonderful parent to 6 children I really hope I can see it to a very late70s before my mom leave me I’m very scared thinking about this and I’m only 13yrs old and I’m the man of the house right now but its nobody I can turn to.I just wish they could have made a cure for all this.I’m very sorry 4 the loved one’s that has passed in yall family I just that my mother wont be next and leave behind 5 young children they are to young to understand whats goin on right now but once again I don’t want my mom to be next i love my mom so much and I don’t want her ti leave us so if u find any info can u please I’m begging u to let me know please:-(

May 15, 2013 at 9:47 am
(31) MVPGF says:

Does htis effect your married life? My gF is suffering from MVP and we are plannign to get married soon..

June 6, 2013 at 5:31 pm
(32) Ronni Abergel says:

My wife just died in my arms on May 6th, 2013. I am sitting here with the autopsy report and there is no doubt that she died from MVP. Sudden DEATH or rather instant death. Mother of two small children. Hospital and doctors told us for years that this was not dangerous and now she is gone. 37 years old a gifted artist and wonderful mother. Mass concern?

MVP causes sudden death in young people. Like it or not!

September 8, 2013 at 3:53 pm
(33) lori m says:

i was diagnosed with mvp at age 12 we were informed then that it was the number one cause of fatal heart attack and failure in women. why now, after somany unexplained deaths in people with mvp, do the Dr. not take it more seriously. death is death, if this problem were better controlled and taken as serious as it really is, I
I believe less death would happen.

December 2, 2013 at 9:29 pm
(34) kimberly says:

i was born with MVP.Im now 12,do you think i could die 2?! And im really sorry for those who had lost a loved one… i lost my grandpa,he had a heart condition

January 27, 2014 at 10:36 pm
(35) Anthony says:

I had a friend who died suddenly at the age of 47. Did not know he has MVP until I spoke to his wife at the funeral. Another friend of mine just died two months ago, also sudden death, he was 42. We were puzzled because he was all along quite healthy and exercise regularly, non smoker and non drinker. After his death, we found out that he had MVP as well.

February 22, 2014 at 6:14 am
(36) Randhir Pandya says:

I have mitral valve prolapse since last 40 years. I do regularly yoga and stretching exercises. I am pure vegitarian . This keeps me active.I advise to people with MVP to do regularly some yoga exercise. I am 78 years of age and still live cheerful life.


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