At Mayo Clinic, an experienced team of heart care specialists work together to diagnose pulmonary valve disease. In addition to a thorough physical examination and history, diagnostic tests can help identify the type of pulmonary valve disease, its severity and the treatment needed. Tests may include:
- Chest X-ray. A chest X-ray shows an image of your heart, lungs and blood vessels. If your heart is enlarged or its shape is abnormal, your doctor may order further tests to check for pulmonary valve disease.
- 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. You may have an ECG while you're at rest or while exercising (stress electrocardiogram).
- Echocardiogram. This noninvasive exam, which includes an ultrasound of your chest, shows detailed images of your heart's structure and function. Sound waves are transmitted, and their echoes are recorded with a device called a transducer that's held outside your body. A computer uses the information from the transducer to create moving images on a video monitor.
- Transesophageal echocardiogram. If the images from a regular echocardiogram are unclear, your doctor may recommend a transesophageal ultrasound. During this exam, a flexible tube containing a small transducer, about the size of your index finger, is guided down your throat. The transducer will transmit images of your heart to a computer monitor.
- Exercise stress test. An exercise stress test usually involves walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike while your heart rhythm, blood pressure and breathing are monitored. Because exercise makes your heart pump harder and faster than it does during most daily activities, an exercise stress test can reveal problems within your heart that might not be noticeable otherwise.
- Cardiac catheterization. In this test, a short tube (sheath) is inserted into a vein or artery in your leg (groin) or arm. A hollow, flexible and longer tube (guide catheter) is then inserted into the sheath. Aided by X-ray images on a monitor, your doctor threads the guide catheter through that artery until it reaches your heart. The pressures in your heart chambers can be measured, and dye can be injected. The dye can be seen on an X-ray, which helps your doctor see the blood flow through your heart, blood vessels and valves to check for abnormalities.
- Computerized tomography (CT). This test is sometimes used to evaluate the heart and pulmonary arteries. In a cardiac CT scan, you lie on a table inside a doughnut-shaped machine. An X-ray tube inside the machine rotates around your body and collects images of your heart and chest.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). In a cardiac MRI, you lie on a table inside a long tube-like machine that produces a magnetic field. The magnetic field aligns atomic particles in some of your cells. When radio waves are broadcast toward these aligned particles, they produce signals that vary according to the type of tissue they are. Images of your heart are created from these signals, which your doctor will look at to help determine the cause of your heart condition.
Read more about chest X-ray, ECG, echocardiogram, exercise or stress test, cardiac catheterization, CT scan, and MRI.
Jan. 30, 2013