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Heart Basics

Diagnosis of heart valve disease

Heart valve disease occurs when one or more of the valves is damaged.


Though many people may experience no symptoms in the early stages, most experience symptoms like chest pain, tiredness, shortness of breath, light-headedness and loss of consciousness. Some of the tools that your doctor may use to diagnose heart valve disease include:

  • Physical exam — Your physician will take a careful and detailed history from you and will perform a thorough physical exam. During this, your doctor will listen for evidence of heart failure or a heart murmur.
  • Electrocardiography (ECG or EKG) — Electrocardiography refers to the study of electrocardiograms or EKG, ECG. An electrocardiogram is used to record the heart’s natural electrical currents. An EKG can show the heart’s rhythm, the heart’s rate, and the strength and timing of the electrical currents. This can prove useful for doctors trying to uncover a patient’s underlying symptoms that may be signs of heart disease.
  • Chest x-ray — Chest x-rays are used to diagnose diseases of the heart and lungs as well as to evaluate placement of tubes, catheters, pacemakers, and defibrillators. A chest x-ray allows your doctor to see your internal organs and bones on film.
  • Nuclear scanning — Nuclear scanning refers to imaging of the body’s internal organs using radioactive waves, ultrasound or magnetic fields.
  • Echocardiography — Echocardiography is the study of echocardiograms which are tests used to uncover diseases of the heart and its vessels. It can be performed as either a transthoracic or transesophageal exam depending on your particular circumstances. These tests use ultrasound to pick up sound waves that are moving through the heart. The waves are then converted into moving pictures.
  • Cardiac catheterization (angiography) — Cardiac catheterization is used to determine if a patient has coronary artery disease. It can also pinpoint any plaque build-up from atherosclerosis.