Your primary care doctor may detect a heart murmur or other signs of heart valve disease. However, a cardiologist usually will diagnose the condition. A cardiologist is a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating heart problems.
To diagnose heart valve disease, your doctor will ask about your signs and symptoms. They also will do a physical exam and look at the results from tests and procedures.
Your doctor will listen to your heart with a stethoscope. They will want to find out whether you have a heart murmur that's likely caused by a heart valve problem.
Your doctor will also listen to your lungs as you breathe to check for fluid buildup, and will check for swollen ankles and other signs that your body is retaining water.
Echocardiography (echo) is the main test for diagnosing heart valve disease. But an EKG (electrocardiogram) or chest x-ray is commonly used to reveal certain signs of the condition. If these signs are present, echo usually is done to confirm the diagnosis.
Your doctor may also recommend other tests and procedures if you're diagnosed with heart valve disease. For example, you may have
stress testing, or a cardiac MRI. These tests and procedures help your doctor assess how severe your condition is so they can plan your treatment.
This simple test detects and records the heart's electrical activity. An EKG can detect an irregular heartbeat and signs of a previous heart attack. It also can show whether your heart chambers are enlarged.
An EKG usually is done in a doctor's office.
This test can show whether certain sections of your heart are enlarged, whether you have fluid in your lungs, or whether calcium deposits are present in your heart.
A chest x-ray helps your doctor learn which type of heart valve defect you have, how severe it is, and whether you have any other heart problems.
Echo uses sound waves to create a moving picture of your heart as it beats. A device called a transducer is placed on the surface of your chest.
The transducer sends sound waves through your chest wall to your heart. Echoes from the sound waves are converted into pictures of your heart on a computer screen.
Echo can show:
Your doctor may recommend a transesophageal echo, or TEE, to get a better image of your heart.
During TEE, the transducer is attached to the end of a flexible tube. The tube is guided down your throat and into your esophagus. From there, your doctor can get detailed pictures of your heart.
You'll likely be given medicine to help you relax during this procedure.
For this procedure, a long, thin, flexible tube called a catheter is put into a blood vessel in your arm, groin, or neck and threaded to your heart. Your doctor uses x-ray images to guide the catheter.
Through the catheter, your doctor does diagnostic tests and imaging that show whether backflow is occurring through a valve and how fully the valve opens. You'll be given medicine to help you relax, but you will be awake during the procedure.
Your doctor may recommend cardiac catheterization if your signs and symptoms of heart valve disease aren't in line with your echo results.
The procedure also can help your doctor assess whether your symptoms are due to specific valve problems or
coronary heart disease. All of this information helps your doctor decide the best way to treat you.
During stress testing, you exercise to make your heart work hard and beat fast while heart tests and imaging are done. If you can't exercise, you may be given medicine to raise your heart rate.
A stress test can show whether you have signs and symptoms of heart valve disease when your heart is working hard. It can help your doctor assess the severity of your heart valve disease.
Cardiac MRI uses a powerful magnet and radio waves to make detailed images of your heart. A cardiac MRI image can confirm information about valve defects or provide more detailed information.
This information can help your doctor plan your treatment. An MRI also may be done before heart valve surgery to help your surgeon plan for the surgery.
Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
One of several specialty centers in the Center for Advanced Cardiovascular Care (CACC), The Heart Valve Center's team uses extensive surgical expertise and advanced imaging to diagnose and devise treatment plans for various heart valve disorders including:
The Heart Valve Center of Texas uses online imaging services through the CACC's imaging center. We offer a wide variety of technologically advanced, precise imaging tools to create pictures of, and effectively care for, your heart. Imaging specialists work with the physicians on The Heart Valve Center's medical staff to provide accurate views of your heart in order to correctly assess your heart valve function. Our comprehensive portfolio of imaging services include:
Physicians are members of the medical staff at one of Baylor Scott & White Health's subsidiary, community or affiliated medical centers and are neither employees nor agents of those medical centers, Baylor Scott & White The Heart Hospital – Plano or Baylor Scott & White Health.