Heart valve disease may be suspected if the heart sounds heard through a stethoscope are abnormal. This is usually the first step in diagnosing a heart valve disease. A characteristic heart murmur (abnormal sounds in the heart due to turbulent blood flow across the valve) can often indicate valve regurgitation or stenosis.
To further define the type of valve disease and extent of the valve damage, doctors may use any of the following diagnostic procedures:
- Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG): A test that records the electrical activity of the heart, shows abnormal rhythms (arrhythmias or dysrhythmias), and can sometimes detect heart muscle damage.
- Transthoracic Echocardiogram (TTE echo): A noninvasive test that uses sound waves to evaluate the heart's chambers and valves. The echo sound waves create an image on a monitor as an ultrasound transducer is passed over the heart.
- Transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE echo): An ultrasound probe is inserted into the esophagus to obtain clearer and more detailed images of the heart.
- Chest X-ray : A diagnostic test that uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film. An X-ray can show enlargement in any area of the heart.
- Cardiac catheterization : This diagnostic procedure involves the insertion of a tiny, hollow tube (catheter) through a large artery in the leg or arm leading to the heart in order to provide images of the heart and blood vessels. This procedure is helpful in determining the type and extent of certain valve disorders.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): A diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body.