Background: Mitral regurgitation due to flail leaflet is difficult to manage, because it is frequently asymptomatic yet carries a high risk of left ventricular dysfunction and because the natural history of the condition is poorly defined.
Methods: We obtained clinical follow-up data through 1994-1995 in 229 patients with isolated mitral regurgitation due to flail leaflet; this condition was first diagnosed by echocardiography between 1980 and 1989.
Results: The 86 patients who were treated medically had a mortality rate significantly higher than expected (6.3 percent yearly, P=0.016 for the comparison with the expected rate in the U.S. population according to the 1990 census). Independent determinants of mortality were an older age, the presence of symptoms, and a lower ejection fraction. Patients who were even transiently in New York Heart Association functional class III or IV had a high mortality rate (34 percent yearly), but the rate was also notable (4.1 percent yearly) among those in class I or II. At 10 years, the mean (+/- SE) rates of heart failure, atrial fibrillation, and death or surgery were 63 +/- 8, 30 +/- 12, and 90 +/- 3 percent, respectively. In a multivariate analysis, surgical correction of mitral regurgitation (performed in 143 patients) was associated with a reduced mortality rate (hazard ratio, 0.29; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.15 to 0.56; P<0.001).
Conclusions: When treated medically, mitral regurgitation due to flail leaflet is associated with excess mortality and high morbidity. Surgery is almost unavoidable within 10 years after the diagnosis and appears to be associated with an improved prognosis; this finding suggests that surgery should be considered early in the course of the disease.