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Proper diagnosis

A proper diagnosis is important when living with heart valve disease


Heart valve disease is a condition that can be treated if discovered early, helping you to get back to a good quality of life. If you’re over 65 and experience any symptoms of heart valve disease, it’s important to see your doctor.

It’s a good idea to try to keep a record of any symptoms you might have. This can help you to remember to tell your doctor how you’ve been feeling. Also record the exercise you’ve been doing if you’ve been feeling unusually tired, or breathless. Your doctor will look at the following to check for a possible heart valve disorder:

  • Pulse rate and rhythm. The doctor will feel your pulse in order to check how fast it is, and whether it has a regular rhythm.
  • Blood pressure. Your blood pressure is measured using a gauge with an inflatable cuff that goes around your arm. This measures the force or pressure that your heart needs to use to pump blood around your body.
  • A stethoscope check. The doctor will place a stethoscope against your chest to listen to your heart.

The stethoscope is one of the most important checks to listen for a heart murmur or ‘click-murmur’ – normally the first sign of heart valve disorder.


Follow up tests

If your doctor finds a heart murmur, they will most likely recommend some follow up tests for a more accurate diagnosis. The following tests may be performed:

  • Doppler echocardiogram

This is an ultrasound of the heart which can show if you’ve had previous heart attacks, or if your heart valves are damaged or leaky. It also measures the amount of blood that can be pumped out of your heart every time it beats.

  • Chest X-ray

This shows the size and shape of the heart to identify anything abnormal.

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)

This test is used to check your heart rhythm or determine if you have an enlarged heart muscle. This is done by measuring the electrical activity of your heart.

  • Radionuclide ventriculography (RNVG, RNA or MUGA scan)

This test is where a small amount of radiation is injected into a vein. A scan is then done which allows the doctor to see the performance of heart muscle, blood flow, and size and shape of the heart’s chambers, while you rest and exercise.

  • Transoesophageal echo (TOE)

This is where a probe is placed down the oesophagus to see an image from behind the heart.

  • Cardiac catheterisation

This is where catheters (small, flexible hollow tubes) are inserted into a vein and an artery to see how well your heart valves and arteries are working.