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How Is Mitral Valve Prolapse Diagnosed?

Mitral valve prolapse (MVP) most often is detected during a routine physical exam. During the exam, your doctor will listen to your heart with a stethoscope.

Stretched valve flaps can make a clicking sound as they shut. If the mitral valve is leaking blood back into the left atrium, your doctor may heart a heart murmur or whooshing sound.

However, these abnormal heart sounds may come and go. Your doctor may not hear them at the time of an exam, even if you have MVP. Thus, you also may have tests and procedures to diagnose MVP.

Diagnostic Tests and Procedures

Echocardiography

Echocardiography (echo) is the most useful test for diagnosing MVP. This painless test uses sound waves to create a moving picture of your heart.

Echo shows the size and shape of your heart and how well your heart chambers and valves are working. The test also can show areas of heart muscle that aren't contracting normally because of poor blood flow or injury to the heart muscle.

Echo can show prolapse of the mitral valve flaps and backflow of blood through the leaky valve.

There are several types of echo, including stress echo. Stress echo is done before and after a stress test. During a stress test, you exercise or take medicine (given by your doctor) to make your heart work hard and beat fast.

You may have stress echo to find out whether you have decreased blood flow to your heart (a sign of coronary heart disease).

Echo also can be done by placing a tiny probe in your esophagus to get a closer look at the mitral valve. The esophagus is the passage leading from your mouth to your stomach.

The probe uses sound waves to create pictures of your heart. This form of echo is called transesophageal (tranz-ih-sof-uh-JEE-ul) echocardiography, or TEE.

Doppler Ultrasound

A Doppler ultrasound is part of an echo test. A Doppler ultrasound shows the speed and direction of blood flow through the mitral valve.

Other Tests

Other tests that can help diagnose MVP include:

  • A chest x ray. This test is used to look for fluid in your lungs or to show whether your heart is enlarged.
  • An EKG (electrocardiogram). An EKG is a simple test that records your heart's electrical activity. An EKG can show how fast your heart is beating and whether its rhythm is steady or irregular. This test also records the strength and timing of electrical signals as they pass through your heart.
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July 1, 2011