Getting an Accurate Heart Valve Diagnosis

doctor talking with patient

To decide the best treatment, you’ll need a careful evaluation.

Several tests can provide different types of information about your heart valves and your circulation, and those tests are covered as they relate to valve disease in this section.

Diagnostic checks in your healthcare provider's office

Your healthcare team will use diagnosis criteria to assess your needs and determine the severity of problems you might be having. The first diagnostic measure is nearly always auscultation, which refers to the physician listening to your heart and any unusual sounds or murmurs with a stethoscope. Sometimes, you may be asked to vary your position or bear down with your abdominal muscles to see if the murmur changes or remains the same.

Learn more about further diagnostic testing

The remainder of this section covers what happens beyond listening to your heart in the office visit. Read more about echocardiography (PDF)(link opens in new window) – the main diagnostic tool for valve problems. Sometimes, the echocardiogram (or “echo”) will provide all the needed information to decide on a treatment plan or to rule out the need for further treatment.

Sometimes, the information from the echo alone does not provide all the needed information. Your physician may order further testing including an exercise test, chest x-rays, CT scan, and sometimes an exploratory cardiac catheterization (or cardiac “cath”). On occasion, a healthcare team is even able to perform a repair during this diagnostic procedure.

Read more about these heart valve tests.


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The Edwards Lifesciences Foundation sponsors the AHA’s Heart Valve Education Center and Ambassador Program: Heart Valve Disease.