Before seeing your health care professional or consulting a specialist about a possible heart valve problem, you may have been told you have a murmur that needs to be checked. Or you may have experienced a physical symptom or group of symptoms that need further investigating.
Heart valve issues, whether because of stenosis or regurgitation, often produce a heart murmur. A heart murmur can be harmless, known as an innocent murmur, but many heart murmurs will need further investigation.
There are several methods for diagnosing heart valve disease. The most important is the echocardiogram.
To assess your needs and determine the severity of problems you might be having, your health care team will use the following criteria:
- Whether you’re having symptoms of valve problems
- Appearance of the heart and valves and severity of disease
- How well the lower chambers (ventricles) respond to increased pressure
- Whether the blood flow to the lungs or body is affected
- Whether there are changes to heart rhythm
- Whether you have any other heart conditions to consider
To fully understand your heart valve problem, your medical team may want to perform a series of tests to provide a complete picture to better understand your treatment options.
- Appearance: Some tests help to provide a picture of what the valve looks like.
o Chest X-ray
o Cardiac computed tomography
- Function: Other tests help to determine how well the valve can do its job.
- Damage or Strain: Others help to evaluate the entire heart and nearby circulatory organs to see if your valve problem has affected your heart in ways that could place you at increased risk.
o Exercise Test
- Download and print our guide: Understanding a Potential Heart Valve Problem (PDF) (link opens in new window) | Spanish (PDF)