DAN Medical Frequently Asked Questions

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Mitral Valve Prolapse

I've been diving for years. Recently, I went to my doctor and she discovered a mitral valve prolapse. Can I continue to dive?

Mitral valve prolapse (MVP - called "click-murmur" syndrome, floppy-valve syndrome) is a common condition, especially in women. The problem arises from some excess tissue and loose connective tissue in the structure of the mitral valve in the heart: part of the valve protrudes down into the left ventricle during contraction of the heart.

An individual with MVP may have absolutely no symptoms, or the symptoms may vary from occasional palpitations, or unusual feeling in the chest arising from the heart beating, to atypical chest pain and a myocardial infarction. There is also a slightly increased risk of a small stroke or transient loss of consciousness.

Fitness and Diving Issue
Frequently mitral valve prolapse will not cause any symptoms or result in any changes in blood flow that would prevent an individual from diving safely. A diver with known mitral valve prolapse who has no symptoms and takes no medications for the problem should be able to safely participate in diving. The individual should require no medications and should be free from chest pain, any alteration in consciousness, palpitations and abnormal heartbeats. Individuals with abnormal cardiac rhythm, which can produce palpitations, should not dive unless these palpitations can be controlled with low doses of anti-arrhythmic medications.

Medication Used in Treatment
Beta-blockers are occasionally prescribed for mitral valve prolapse. These often cause a decrease in maximum exercise tolerance and may also have some effect on the airways. This normally poses no problem for the average diver, but it may be important in emergency situations.

For more information on cardiovascular conditions, see the complete article by Dr. James L. Caruso on Cardiovascular Fitness and Diving from the July/August 1999 issue of Alert Diver.