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Heart Murmur Diagnosis

A heart murmur is usually found during a routine physical exam or when it causes symptoms. Once its basic characteristics (e.g., loudness, location, etc.) have been identified, your doctor may order additional tests to determine whether it’s an abnormal heart murmur caused by a larger, underlying problem. Tests that your doctor may use include: 

  • Chest X-ray is a non-invasive test that takes pictures of the heart and lungs; these can help the doctor determine if heart failure or certain lung problems might be causing a heart murmur.
  • Electrocardiogram is a simple non-invasive test that can be done in the doctor’s office using small adhesive pads called electrodes that are placed on the arms, legs, and chest. These electrodes are connected to a machine that detects and prints out the heart's electrical impulses, giving a 10-second snapshot of what the heart is doing right at that moment.
  • Echocardiogram is a non-invasive test using ultrasound (sound waves) and a device called a transducer—which is placed on the surface of the chest—to create a moving picture of the heart. It shows size and shape of the heart chambers and problems with pumping function.
  • Heart catheterization is used to detect abnormalities of the heart valves, heart function and coronary arteries. This procedure uses a catheter (long thin flexible tube) that is inserted through a blood vessel in the wrist, leg, arm or neck to measure the pressure of blood in the heart chambers, take blood samples or view heart structures (using contrast dye).