Leaking mitral heart valve
If you have a suspected leaking heart valve the doctor will first listen to your heart with a stethoscope. If blood is flowing from the left heart chamber into the left atrium through the afflicted mitral valve, it can clearly be heard with a stethoscope. A list of further investigative methods to determine a leaking mitral heart valve appears below.
Electrocardiography (an ECG or heart film) is an investigative method that can be used to record the electrical activity of the heart and detect an abnormal heartbeat or damage to the heart muscle. An X-ray of the chest will also clearly show any enlargement of the left atrium and fluid build-up in the lungs (oedema). Among other things, heart catheterisation can show the volume of blood flowing back from the left ventricle through the afflicted mitral valve to the left atrium with each heartbeat.
One of the most effective examinations to determine a leaking mitral heart valve is echocardiography, often referred to as a heart echo. In this process, images are made of the heart with the aid of sound waves.
The doctor can see both the backflow of blood from the left ventricle to the left atrium as well as enlargement of the left atrium. An echocardiography can be performed both externally (transthoracic echocardiography) and internally via the oesophagus (transoesophageal echocardiography).
With so-called stress echocardiography the patient engages in mild exercise on a cycle ergometer to accelerate the heartbeat, because it is difficult to estimate the severity of the condition with an examination in a resting state. If this is not possible for health reasons, the heartbeat can also be accelerated, for example, by compressing a foam rubber ball multiple times, so the leaking mitral heart valve becomes more visible.