Aortic valve stenosis
How is aortic valve stenosis diagnosed?
The process of arriving at a diagnosis of aortic valve stenosis usually involves several steps.
Often, a clinician will first notice that your child has a heart murmur is simply a telltale noise blood makes as it flows from the left ventricle to the aorta.
Heart murmurs can be detected with a stethoscope during a routine physical examination or with an electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG), a test that records the heart’s electrical activity and shows any abnormal rhythms or unusual stress. Sometimes, the murmur may emerge when the child is being tested or treated for another condition altogether.
The loudness of the murmur, where in the chest it is best heard and the types of noise it causes (such as gurgling or blowing) will all give your child’s clinician a better idea of the nature of your child’s heart problem.
(Did you know heart defects can even be detected when a baby is still in the womb? Learn more about how Children’s monitors fetal heartbeats.)
Although exams and electrocardiograms can suggest the possibility of aortic valve stenosis, an echocardiogram is the definitive test used to confirm the diagnosis. An echocardiogram is a special procedure that uses ultrasonic sound waves to create images of the heart and its structures. Echocardiograms are painless, do not require an IV and only take about an hour to perform.
Other tests your child’s clinician might order to make, or rule out, a diagnosis of aortic valve stenosis can include:
- a chest X-ray that produces images of the heart and lungs
- an exercise electrocardiogram, which evaluates the heart’s activity during exercise
- cardiac catheterization, which uses a small, flexible tube threaded up to the heart to give very detailed information about the structures within the heart
- cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which uses magnets to produce detailed, three-dimensional pictures of the heart’s function and blood flow
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