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 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago

Diagnosing Mitral Valve Disease

At the Center for Heart Valve Disease the most advanced imaging tests are available to study the mitral valve in patients with valvular heart disease. These tests include:


Imaging tests, ordered by the cardiologist and/or cardiac surgeon, help to diagnose and classify mitral valve disease. The American Heart Association/American College of Cardiology (AHA/ACC) Guidelines for the Management of Patients with Valvular Heart Disease suggests routine repeat echocardiography (painless test using ultrasound to create a moving picture of the heart) to periodically assess the status of heart valves.

Echocardiography is used to define the severity of valve stenosis and/or regurgitation/insufficiency.

  • 1 (mild stenosis or regurgitation/insufficiency)
  • 2 (moderate stenosis or regurgitation/insufficiency)
  • 3-4 (severe stenosis or regurgitation/insufficiency)

Patients with mild to moderate (1-2) mitral valve disease may remain without symptoms for years; however, the stenosis or regurgitation/insufficiency tends to progress over time. This progression is variable and is determined by the type of valve disease and by how much the valve leaflets (flap-like structure that control the one way flow of blood in the heart) are affected by other medical conditions.

An initial echocardiogram is indispensable in the management of the patient with mitral valve disease because it provides a baseline estimation of the heart's size, its ability to pump blood, and an approximation of the severity of mitral valve disease. Exercise stress testing (test that studies the effect of exercise on the heart) may also be needed to better clarify the severity of symptoms.

Follow-up Testing

The aim of continued follow-up and routine, repeat echocardiography and stress testing of the patient with mitral valve disease is to assess changes in heart function and activity level that can occur in the absence of symptoms. Changes from the tests taken at the time of initial evaluation are used to dictate a necessary change in medical management or a recommendation for surgery.


For more information regarding mitral valve disease and the treatments available, please contact the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute at 1-866-662-8467 or request a first time appointment online.

Last UpdateDecember 18, 2013