Tests and diagnosis

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Doctors may diagnose mitral valve prolapse at any age. Your doctor is most likely to diagnose mitral valve prolapse during a physical examination.

To detect mitral valve prolapse, your doctor will listen to your heart using a stethoscope. If you have mitral valve prolapse, your doctor may hear clicking sounds, which are common in mitral valve prolapse. Your doctor may also hear a heart murmur if you have blood leaking backward through your mitral valve (mitral valve regurgitation).

Other tests to diagnose mitral valve prolapse may include:

  • Echocardiogram. An echocardiogram is usually done to confirm the diagnosis. An echocardiogram is a noninvasive ultrasound evaluation of your heart.

    This test uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of your heart and its structures, including the mitral valve itself, and the flow of blood through it.

    You may have a transesophageal echocardiogram. In this test, your doctor inserts a flexible tube with a small device (transducer) attached into your throat and down into your esophagus — the tube that connects the back of your mouth to your stomach.

    Because your esophagus is directly behind your heart, a transesophageal echocardiogram can create clear, detailed ultrasound images of your heart and mitral valve. Doctors may also use this test to examine the mitral valve prior to surgery.

    During an echocardiogram, doctors perform a Doppler ultrasound to evaluate blood flow and measure the amount of blood leakage (regurgitation). This test helps doctors determine the severity of your condition.

  • Chest X-ray. A chest X-ray shows a picture of your heart, lungs and blood vessels and can help your doctor make a diagnosis. It can help show if your heart is enlarged.
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG). In this noninvasive test, a technician will place probes on your chest that record the electrical impulses that make your heart beat.

    An ECG records these electrical signals and can help your doctor detect irregularities in your heart's rhythm and structure, including mitral valve prolapse.

  • Stress test. Your doctor may order a stress test to see if mitral valve regurgitation limits your ability to exercise. In a stress test, you exercise or take certain medications to increase your heart rate and make your heart work harder.

    You may also have a stress test if your doctor is trying to determine if you have another condition such as coronary artery disease.

  • Coronary angiogram and cardiac catheterization. A coronary angiogram and cardiac catheterization aren't generally used to diagnose mitral valve prolapse. However, mitral valve prolapse may be found during cardiac catheterization for another condition.

    Also, if other tests show conflicting results regarding the severity of mitral valve regurgitation, your doctor may recommend a coronary angiogram and cardiac catheterization to determine the severity of your condition. You may also have cardiac catheterization if your doctor determines you'll need heart valve surgery.

    During cardiac catheterization, a doctor inserts a long, thin, flexible plastic tube (catheter) into your groin and guides it to your heart using X-ray imaging. Doctors then inject dye into the blood vessels of your heart to make them visible under X-ray imaging (coronary angiogram). Doctors also look for signs of coronary artery disease before heart valve surgery.

April 05, 2014