When diagnosing aortic valve regurgitation, a physician will start with your personal and family medical history. You will also undergo a physical exam as well as tests to measure how well your heart is working. These can include any of the following:
- Chest X-ray is a non-invasive test that takes pictures of the heart and lungs; these can help the doctor diagnose an enlarged heart or congestion of the lungs.
- Echocardiogram is a non-invasive test using ultrasound (sound waves) and a device called a transducer — which is placed on the surface of the chest — to create a picture of the heart. This test provides views of the valve opening and heart chambers; it can show if the valve is leaking and if there are problems with pumping.
- Transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) uses sound waves (ultrasound) to create detailed pictures of your heart and arteries. Unlike echocardiogram, TEE uses a probe that is passed through the mouth and into the esophagus. This provides a better picture because the esophagus is right behind the heart and the probe does not have to penetrate the chest wall in the ribs and lungs to get a clear picture.
- Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) is a simple non-invasive test that can be done in the doctor’s office using small adhesive pads called electrodes that are placed on the arms, legs, and chest. These electrodes are connected to a machine that detects and prints out the heart's electrical impulses, giving a 10-second snapshot of what the heart is doing right at that moment.
- Heart catheterization is used to detect abnormalities of the heart valves, heart function and coronary arteries. This procedure uses a catheter (long thin flexible tube) that is inserted through a blood vessel in the wrist, leg, arm or neck to measure the pressure of blood in the heart chambers, take blood samples or view heart structures (using contrast dye).
- MRI uses radio waves and a powerful magnetic field to produce detailed images of internal structures.
- Exercise stress (or treadmill) test is used to look for any arrhythmias that may occur during exercise or higher adrenaline levels. During this test, an EKG continuously records the heart’s activity while the patient is walking or running on a treadmill at the hospital.