Mitral annular disjunction

Last revised by David Carroll on 28 Sep 2022

Mitral annulus disjunction (MAD) is an anatomic abnormality involving the confluence of the left atrium, mitral valve annulus, and the base of the left ventricle. It is classically associated with the spectrum of myxomatous disease of the mitral valve and mitral valve prolapse (MVP). 

Mitral annulus disjunction has been reported in 42-90% of patients with myxomatous mitral valve disease and mitral prolapse. The condition seems to be more common in women 1.

Mitral annular disjunction has been associated with the following clinical conditions 1-4:

Patients may be asymptomatic with an incidental discovery or present with symptomatic dysrhythmias (palpitations, pre-syncope, dyspnea). Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is a described presentation. 

Physical examination is nonspecific, but may reveal findings of related anomalies such as MVP (mid-systolic auscultatory click 1,4) or resultant pathologic sequelae such as a displaced point of maximal (apical) impulse with associated left ventricular dilation or a systolic murmur consistent with mitral regurgitation.  

Complications of mitral annular disjunction include the following conditions 1-3:

The substrate for mitral annular disjunction (MAD) is a pathologic alteration of the anatomic relationship between the wall of the left atrium, the annulus fibrosis of the mitral valve, and the left ventricular myocardium. The pathognomonic feature is significant (usually exceeding 5 mm) displacement of the left atrial wall-mitral valvular junction which has become pathologically discontinuous from the corresponding basal left ventricular myocardium.

The saddle-shaped annulus of the mitral valve defines the insertion of the valve leaflets and defines the boundary between the the left atrium and left ventricle; in doing so it provides mechanical coupling of the atrium/valve apparatus and basal ventricular myocardium. Optimal annular structure and dynamic function, such as the early systolic contraction of annular dimensions and cyclical geometrical variation, is an important component of valvular competency. Left ventricular contraction and deformation is thought to drive the movement and structural rearrangement of the annulus (which lacks contractile fibers) during systole by "pulling" mechanically coupled adjacent segments 9

The presence of a discontinuity between the left ventricular myocardium and the left atrium-annulus continuum occurs in MAD with subsequent loss of mechanical coupling to the ventricle, resulting in such pathophysiologic derangements such as:

  • tethering of the mitral annulus to left atrial wall motion with paradoxical systolic flattening, expansion and alteration in shape
    • loss of the usual systolic accentuation of "saddle-shaped" morphology 12
  • hyper-mobility, with a high velocity outward "curling" of the annulus during mid systole and resultant deformation of the corresponding papillary muscle via the chordae tendinae 11

These changes are thought to unfavorably change the distribution of mechanical stress on the mitral valve apparatus resulting in degeneration of the chordae and leaflets with a spectrum of multi-segmental leaflet prolapse and flail and increasingly severe mitral regurgitation 10.

The extent of mitral annular disjunction may be quantified by measuring the distance between the insertion of the leaflet at the left atrial wall and the left ventricular myocardium as well as the circumferential extension 1-3. Increased severity of MAD has been found to correlate with:

  • degree of mitral regurgitation 15
  • number of valve segments with flail or prolapse
  • increasing burden of ventricular dysrhythmias

A suggested classification for subgrouping MAD by measured degree of disjunction proceeds as follows 13

  • type I: excessive annular mobility with an absence of a visualized separation between annulus and basal left ventricular myocardium
  • type II: annulus-ventricular separation (i.e. disjunction) of less than 5 mm
  • type III: disjunction greater than 5 mm

The annulus can be affected throughout its circumference, and may have multiple areas of discontinuous involvement. MAD most commonly occurs at the postero-lateral annulus adjacent to the valvular scallops P1 and P2, affecting the posterior leaflet 12. Involvement of both anterior and posterior leaflets is not uncommonly observed. The least common variant affects the anterior leaflet alone.

Mitral annulus disjunction is best visible in systole where the detachment of the left inferolateral myocardial wall from the posterolateral portion of the mitral annulus can be demonstrated.

Likewise, the distance between the posterior mitral valvular leaflet insertion at the atrial wall and the connection of the left atrial wall to the myocardial free wall is measured in systole 1-3.

Echocardiography is considered is usually the first-line imaging modality for the evaluation of mitral valvular disorders 1. A distance between the posterior mitral leaflet insertion and the left ventricular myocardium of ≥5 mm in TEE is considered diagnostic 1,5.

Cardiac CT can identify and depict mitral annulus disjunction as a separation between the left atrial wall mitral valve leaflet junction and left ventricular wall along the mitral annular circumference 1.

Cardiac MRI can detect and characterize the circumferential extent of mitral annulus disjunction and systolic curling. The separation distance has been described to vary between 1 and 15 mm 3. Moreover, cardiac MRI can assess myocardial fibrosis in the basal inferolateral free wall or papillary muscles, which can be depicted with T1 mapping or late gadolinium enhancement 1,4.

The radiological report should include a description of the following features 1:

  • presence of absence of mitral annular disjunction
    • measured distance of leaflet insertion from left ventricular myocardium
  • circumferential extent
  • mitral valve prolapse
  • myxomatous mitral valve leaflet thickening
  • mitral regurgitation
  • signs of replacement fibrosis
  • basal left ventricular hypertrophy

Management apparently differs according to the experience in different centers. Medical therapy with beta-blockers is under consideration 2.

Implantation of an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) might be considered as secondary prevention in patients, who have experienced cardiac arrest and no underlying reversible cardiac disease 1,2.

The term ‘mitral annular disjunction was first used by Bharati et al. in 1981 and later defined by Hutchins et al. in 1986 2,4-6.

Conditions mimicking the imaging appearance of mitral valve disjunction include:

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