When Kentucky Rep. Andy Barr‘s wife, Carol Barr, unexpectedly died at home on June 16, people were left wondering: how could a seemingly healthy 39-year-old woman die so suddenly? Barr’s cause of death was later revealed to be Mitral valve prolapse, more commonly known as Floppy Valve Syndrome, which is 4. Two top cardiologists explain to HollywoodLife EXCLUSIVELY why the congressman’s wife was killed by the condition, in which the heart’s mitral valve is unable to control blood flow — even if it’s “not usually” fatal.
“Mitral valve prolapse can make the heart susceptible to cardiac arrhythmias which can cause sudden cardiac death,” explains Dr. Robert Segal, cardiologist and founder of Manhattan Cardiology. “In patients with mitral valve prolapse, the sudden cardiac death has been linked to ventricular fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia, life-threatening arrhythmias. However, the relation between mitral valve prolapse and sudden cardiac death is uncertain. Consistent with a causative role for mitral valve prolapse is the observation that mitral valve prolapse is the only cardiac abnormality in some patients at autopsy and in certain survivors of sudden cardiac death.”
Mitral valve prolapse is a condition in which the valve flaps of the heart’s mitral valve don’t close correctly, instead bulging into the left atrium, Dr. Segal explains. “The defective mitral valve is unable to control blood flow, and as a result the blood regurgitates back into the chamber it left from (the left atrium), as a condition called mitral regurgitation (MR). Complications include infective endocarditis and arrhythmias. The diagnosis of mitral valve prolapse is suspected on physical examination and confirmed by echocardiography.”
Dr. Nieca Goldberg, the Medical Director of NYU Women’s Heart Program, told HollywoodLife that mitral valve prolapse is “not usually” fatal. An echocardiogram — an ultrasound of the heart — could help detect the condition. “If the mitral valve is leaking, you can tell the severity from the echocardiogram,” Dr. Goldberg said. “And for people who are symptomatic or have severe leakage, mitral valve repair is recommended. Although individuals with mitral valve prolapse have palpitations they are not usually due to life threatening arrhythmias.”
After Barr’s death, Mary Rosado, Andy Barr‘s chief of staff, released a heartbreaking statement: “During this tragic time, we respectfully ask for privacy for Congressman Barr and his family to grieve Mrs. Barr being called home to heaven. Congressman Barr may release a more detailed statement at a later date, but right now is solely focused on being a father to his two beautiful daughters.”