To diagnose aortic valve regurgitation, your doctor may review your signs and symptoms, discuss your and your family's medical history, and conduct a physical examination. Your doctor may listen to your heart with a stethoscope to determine if you have a heart murmur that may indicate an aortic valve condition. A doctor trained in heart disease (cardiologist) may evaluate you.
Your doctor may order several tests to diagnose your condition, and determine the cause and severity of your condition. Tests may include:
Echocardiogram. Sound waves directed at your heart from a wandlike device (transducer) held on your chest produces video images of your heart in motion. This test can help doctors closely look at the condition of the aortic valve and the aorta. It can help doctors determine the cause and severity of your condition, and see if you have additional heart valve conditions. Doctors may also use a 3-D echocardiogram.
Doctors may conduct another type of echocardiogram called a transesophageal echocardiogram to get a closer look at the aortic valve. In this test, a small transducer attached to the end of a tube is inserted down the tube leading from your mouth to your stomach (esophagus).
- Electrocardiogram (ECG). In this test, wires (electrodes) attached to pads on your skin measure the electrical activity of your heart. An ECG can detect enlarged chambers of your heart, heart disease and abnormal heart rhythms.
- Chest X-ray. This enables your doctor to determine whether your heart is enlarged — a possible indicator of aortic valve regurgitation — or whether you have an enlarged aorta. It can also help doctors determine the condition of your lungs.
- Exercise tests or stress tests. Exercise tests help doctors see whether you have signs and symptoms of aortic valve disease during physical activity, and these tests can help determine the severity of your condition. If you are unable to exercise, medications that have similar effects as exercise on your heart may be used.
- Cardiac MRI. Using a magnetic field and radio waves, this test produces detailed pictures of your heart, including the aorta and aortic valve. This test may be used to determine the severity of your condition.
Cardiac catheterization. This test isn't often used to diagnose aortic valve regurgitation, but it may be used if other tests aren't able to diagnose the condition or determine its severity. Doctors may also conduct cardiac catheterization prior to valve replacement surgery to see if there are obstructions in the coronary arteries, so they can be fixed at the time of the valve surgery.
In cardiac catheterization, a doctor threads a thin tube (catheter) through a blood vessel in your arm or groin to an artery in your heart and injects dye through the catheter to make the artery visible on an X-ray. This provides your doctor with a detailed picture of your heart arteries and how your heart functions. It can also measure the pressure inside the heart chambers.