How is Heart Valve Disease Diagnosed
With heart valve disease, the valves of the heart are failing to work properly. The heart has four valves that ensure blood flows in the correct direction. Sometimes, one or more of these valves fails to open or close properly. This leads to the natural flow of blood being disrupted. Treatment for heart valve disease depends on just which heart valve is being affected,as well as the disease’s severity. Some situations require surgery to repair or replace the valve.
Your heart doctor may evaluate the signs and symptoms you experience and conduct a physical examination – that’s first and foremost. During the exam, your doctor will listen for a telltale heart murmur, which is often a sign of heart valve disease. In addition, they may schedule several tests, including:
- Echocardiography – Sound waves directed at the heart produce images of the heart in action. The test assesses the overall structure of the heart, the valves, and blood flow. Theechocardiogram allows your doctor to look at the valves in-depth to determine how well they function.
- Electrocardiogram – Wires (electrodes) are attached via pads to your chest, measuring electrical impulses from the heart muscle. This test, also called an ECG or EKG, detects enlarged heart chambers, heart disease, and abnormal heart rhythms.
- Stress Test – Various stress tests help measure your heart’s response to physical exertion. If you cannot exercise, certain medications mimic the effect.
- Cardiac Catheterization – If other tests fail to diagnose the condition, cardiac catheterization may be used. The catheter, a thin and flexible tube, can detect heart valve disease and also treat some heart conditions.
Treatment depends on the severity of your condition. A doctor specializing in heart disease will provide care, leading to a healthier heart. Treatment generally includes surgery, though the condition may be monitored for some time if it is not too severe.