Exams and Tests
Aortic stenosis is often found during an exam when the doctor listens to the heart and hears a heart murmur. But the loudness of the murmur doesn’t reflect the severity of stenosis. In fact when the murmur gets quieter, it may be more severely narrowed. Other tests will be ordered to confirm the diagnosis and to determine the type of damage or issue with your heart valve. Tests include:
- Electrocardiogram (ECG): Calcium buildup linked to this condition may cause issues with the electrical system of the heart. This test also can reveal whether your heart muscle has grown thicker by showing changes in the electrical activity of the heart.
- Chest X-ray: The heart size often is normal, but other physical changes may be seen. For example, there might be a rounding of the heart border and tip of the heart (apex) because of a thickened heart muscle. Often, an enlarged aorta is seen just above the aortic valve.
- Echocardiogram (heart ultrasound): A heart ultrasound is used to look at the structure and function of the heart. It is a fast and painless study that uses ultrasound waves to produce heart images. Your doctor may be able to identify the cause of aortic stenosis and look for other conditions you may have. He or she also can find out how narrow your aortic valve is and look for narrowing or leaks of the other valves.
- Cardiac Computed tomography (CAT scan): This test takes multiple X-rays to make detailed pictures of the heart. It is sometimes used to look for calcium deposits on the aortic valves and to guide certain procedures such as TAVR (a minimally invasive surgical procedure to repair an aortic valve).
- Cardiac Catheterization (heart catheterization or coronary angiogram): A heart catheterization is done to find out if you have disease of the heart muscle, valves or coronary (heart) arteries. During the procedure, the pressure and blood flow in your heart can be measured. A contrast dye visible in X-rays is injected through a catheter that is threaded from a blood vessel in your wrist or groin. X-ray images show the dye as it flows through the heart arteries and can show whether they are blocked. A coronary angiogram can be used to identify patients who also might benefit from surgery on the blood vessels around the heart along with an aortic valve replacement procedure.
Published: May 2018
Editorial Team Lead: Priya Kohli, MD, FACC
Medical Contributors: Jacob Dal-Bianco, MD, FACC; Karanvir S. Grewal, MD, FACC; Kameswari Maganti, MD, FACC; Sharon L. Mulvagh, M.D., FACC; Nishath Quader, MD, FACC