Tests and diagnosis

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Your child's doctor may first suspect an atrial septal defect or other heart defect during a regular checkup if he or she hears a heart murmur while listening to your child's heart using a stethoscope. Or an atrial septal defect may be found when an ultrasound exam of the heart (echocardiogram) is done for another reason.

If your doctor suspects you have a heart defect, your doctor may request one or more of the following tests:

  • Echocardiogram.This is the most commonly used test to diagnose an atrial septal defect. Some atrial septal defects are found during an echocardiogram done for another reason.

    In echocardiography, sound waves are used to produce a video image of the heart. It allows your doctor to see your heart's chambers and measure their pumping strength. This test also checks heart valves and looks for any signs of heart defects. Doctors may use this test to evaluate your condition and determine your treatment plan.

  • Chest X-ray. An X-ray image helps your doctor to see the condition of your heart and lungs. An X-ray may identify conditions other than a heart defect that may explain your signs or symptoms.
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG). This test records the electrical activity of your heart and helps identify heart rhythm problems.
  • Cardiac catheterization. In this test, a thin, flexible tube (catheter) is inserted into a blood vessel at the groin or arm and guided to your heart. Through catheterization, doctors can diagnose congenital heart defects, test how well your heart is pumping and check the function of your heart valves. Using catheterization, the blood pressure in your lungs also can be measured.

    However, this test usually isn't needed to diagnose atrial septal defect. Doctors may also use catheterization techniques to repair heart defects.

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MRI is a technique that uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create 3-D images of your heart and other organs and tissues within your body. Your doctor may request an MRI if echocardiography can't definitively diagnose an atrial septal defect.
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan. A CT scan uses a series of X-rays to create detailed images of your heart. A CT scan may be used to diagnose an atrial septal defect if echocardiography hasn't definitely diagnosed an atrial septal defect.
Dec. 11, 2014

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