Heart valves open and close allowing flow of blood through the different heart chambers. At Cardiology Specialists we can help assess whether your heart murmur is important. Disorders affecting valves can either cause stenosis (narrowing) or regurgitation (leakage after the valve has closed). Depending on what valve is involved and how severe the damage is it may result in symptoms such as: tiredness, shortness of breath, or dizziness (see: Shortness of Breath and Heart Failure).
Suspicion of a heart valve problem is usually picked up by your doctor when they listen to your heart and hear a murmur. A murmur is heard with the stethoscope and is turbulence of blood flow that occurs through a narrowed or leaky valve. Not all heart murmurs mean serious problems but are best investigated further. Some heart murmurs are just the sound of blood flowing through normal heart valves (flow murmur)
Echo at Cardiology Specialists uses ultrasound to measure function of heart chambers and heart valves. Echo is also called Cardiac Ultrasound, which uses high frequency sound waves and is similar to a gall bladder or pregnancy ultrasound but is instead focused on the heart. Professor Hamid Ikram pioneered the introduction of Echo to Canterbury. At Cardiology Specialists, Echo is performed by a specially trained technician who moves a plastic transducer on the skin of the chest wall to obtain pictures of the heart chambers and valves. Echo (cardiac ultrasound) is the gold standard for diagnosing heart valve narrowing or leaking including congenital abnormality of heart valves such as bicuspid aortic valves. Patients may require follow up Echo over time to assess whether heart murmur and/ or heart and aorta size and function is deteriorating.
Other tests such as Coronary Angiography and CT scans may be required if heart valve disease is severe.