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Mitral Valve Regurgitation - Exams and Tests

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

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.

Electrocardiogram

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.

Chest X-ray

A chest X-ray may be done to evaluate heart size and to assess symptoms of MR, such as shortness of breath. Calcium deposits on the heart valves may sometimes be seen on a chest X-ray.

Cardiac catheterization

Cardiac catheterization, a test that evaluates your heart and heart (coronary) arteries, may be done to:

  • Confirm the severity of mitral valve leakage seen on an echocardiogram.
  • Check for coronary artery disease before valve repair or replacement surgery. If severe blockage is seen in the coronary arteries, the blockage may be corrected during the same open-heart surgery to correct the damaged valve.

Regular checkups

How often you see your doctor and what tests are done will be determined by how severe your chronic mitral valve regurgitation is.

Monitoring chronic mitral valve regurgitation

Severity of mitral regurgitation

Suggestions for monitoring and tracking

Mild
  • See a doctor annually for a checkup.
  • Let your doctor know if you have symptoms in between visits.
Moderate
  • See a doctor annually.
  • Let your doctor know if you have symptoms in between visits.
Severe
  • Have a physical exam and echocardiogram every 6–12 months.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 29, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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