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myxamateous mitral valve degeneration

  Recently I have been told that I do not have mitral valve prolapse, but instead have a thickened mitral valve with slight regurgitation.  The significance of this diagnosis is that less than 2 year ago, my sister died in her sleep of what was determined to myxamateous mitral valve degeneration.  I also have an aunt, who recently underwent mitral valve replacement surgery.  She was also told that her valves were thickened.
  What is the genetic significance?  i.e. do we as a family panic and have every sibling and child tested for mitral valve problems?
  What should be our course of action in follow up?
Dear Carol:
You should make sure all your siblings are examined by a physician and all the kids are checked out by a pediatrician.  They should make sure they mention to their respective doctors that there is a strong family history of mitral valve problems.  This way the doctors can listen for any murmurs (abnormal heart sounds) that might indicate valve problems and order any appropriate tests.
Information provided here is of a general nature.  Specific diagnoses and treatments can only be made by your doctor.  If you would like to be seen at the Cleveland Clinic, please call 1-800-CCF-CARE for an appointment with a cardiologist at Desk F15.

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