Diagnosing mitral valve stenosis is a fairly straightforward process. Your doctor will review your personal health history and perform a physical exam—which includes listening for the sound of a murmur, snapping, clicking in your heart or congestion in your lungs using a stethoscope. Your doctor will likely also order any one of the following diagnostic tests:
- Chest X-ray is a non-invasive test that takes pictures of the heart and lungs; these can help the doctor determine if the left atria is enlarged or if you have pulmonary congestion due to blood backup.
- Echocardiogram is a non-invasive test using sound waves (ultrasound) and a device called a transducer—which is placed on the surface of the chest—to create a moving picture of the heart. It shows the size and shape of the heart chambers, including the mitral valve opening width and the amount of blood flowing through it.
- 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).
- 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.
- Holter monitor is used to give a detailed analysis of the heart’s electrical activity over a period of 24 hours (1 day). For this non-invasive test, which is done at home, 4 or 5 adhesive electrodes are placed on the chest and connected to an electrical recording device that is usually worn on the belt or on a neck/shoulder strap. This device records every heartbeat for the duration of the time that it’s worn.
- MRI uses radio waves and a powerful magnetic field to produce detailed images of internal structures.
- Other possible tests may include: stress test, special cardiac Doppler studies or radionuclide scans.