Barlow’s syndrome is a relatively common condition in which there is an abnormality of the mitral valve of the heart.
This can sometimes lead to severe mitral regurgitation, in which blood leaks into the left atrium as a result of the incompetent valve during ventricular contraction.
Barlow’s syndrome is more common in people who suffer from diseases such as Graves’ disease, Marfan’s syndrome and rheumatic heart disease.
Most people do not suffer from symptoms, but if they do, these may include palpitations, fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pain and migraine.
Treatment depends on the symptoms.
The underlying problem with the valve is a degeneration of the tissue causing the leaflets to become stretched and enlarged. This redundant tissue bulges into the atrium, preventing the valve from closing properly. The exact reason for this tissue change is not known, but it is associated with othe tissue degenerative disorders.
Functional MVP can occur with completely normal valve leaflets: this is found in conditions of abnormal papillary muscle function due to myocardial ischaemia, and in dilated cardiomyopathy. Patients with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy are also at risk.
Symptoms and signs
Most patients do not experience symptoms. However, when they do the symptoms include:fatigue, migraine, dizziness, panic attacks and low blood pressure when lying down.
Others are shortness of breath; palpitations and chest pain that is not angina.
However, these non-specific symptoms are not reliable indicators of the condition.
When the doctor listens to the heart, a murmur may be heard. This is caused by irregular blood flow through the valve. A click may also be heard, thought to be due to the snapping of the anchoring “ropes” – the chordea – as the valve billows and then is suddenly held taut.
About 25% of people with Barlow’s syndrome also suffer from lax joints, and a high arched palate in the mouth (these patients may also have a degree of Marfan’s syndrome), and other abnormalities of their skeleton such as scoliosis, a funnel chest and a straight back.