Chronic mitral valve regurgitation (MR) can be difficult to diagnose. It is a "quiet" condition and often has no symptoms, or your symptoms may be confused with other heart-related conditions.
Chronic MR is often diagnosed during a routine checkup or a visit to the doctor for another condition. A heart murmur may be the first sign leading your doctor to the diagnosis, especially if you have no other symptoms.
Acute MR causes sudden symptoms and is much less common than chronic mitral valve regurgitation. It is usually diagnosed while you are already hospitalized or in the emergency room.
When your doctor suspects you have MR, he or she will discuss your medical history, do a physical exam, and likely order tests to check your heart. Your doctor uses the information to find out how severe your MR is. For more information, see Mitral Valve Regurgitation: Severity.
Medical history and physical exam
To find out the severity of your MR, your doctor will ask you to describe the symptoms you are experiencing, such as shortness of breath, fatigue, or chest pain.
During the physical exam, the doctor will take your blood pressure, check your pulse, listen to your heart and lungs, look at the veins in your neck (jugular veins), and check your legs and feet for fluid buildup (edema).
Echocardiogram (sometimes called an echo or echocardiography) is a type of ultrasound exam. It helps your doctor find out how severe your MR is. Also, echocardiography can help determine whether the heart's main pumping chamber (left ventricle) is functioning properly, whether any structural problems exist that may affect the mitral valve, and whether the chambers of the heart are enlarged.
An electrocardiogram (EKG, ECG) is a test that measures the electrical signals that control the rhythm of your heartbeat.
Although the EKG may reveal abnormal electrical activity in the heart, further testing is often still needed to find out the severity of MR and to confirm whether MR is causing enlargement of the left ventricle. The result of an EKG is often normal in people who have mild MR.