Diagnosis

When you have structural heart disease, your heart must work harder to pump blood throughout the body. If left untreated, this stress on the heart can lead to serious complications such as arrhythmia and heart failure.

That’s why it’s important to get the best possible care from physicians who specialize in treating heart valve and other structural heart conditions. With years of experience, we pinpoint the source of your symptoms for a precise diagnosis. Then we can plan the most appropriate treatment for you.

Experts in diagnosing structural heart disease

Effective treatment for a heart condition begins with an accurate diagnosis. Our heart physicians, nurses and other care providers from several specialties work together, drawing on their expertise to plan your care. We use the latest, most advanced diagnostic tools, such as intracardiac echocardiogram, to confirm a diagnosis and begin planning your treatment.

Our structural heart team includes:

  • Interventional cardiologists
  • Cardiovascular nurses
  • Heart failure specialists
  • Cardiac imaging specialists

During your initial evaluation, you may meet with only a few members of our team, but we all contribute to your care. In our weekly team conferences, we discuss our patients’ needs and recommend the best treatment options to help you live a longer, healthier life. Meet our team for expert structural heart disease care.

Our diagnostic process for structural heart disease

Our heart specialists are at the forefront of research studies that evaluate the latest therapies for valve and other structural heart diseases. Through innovation, we’re working to bring the most effective diagnostic tools and treatments from the lab to your bedside.

Whether you contacted us directly or your physician referred you, we can usually see you within a week. If your condition is more urgent, we may be able to see you sooner, even the same day.

Whether or not you already have a diagnosis when you come to us, we begin our evaluation process with a:

  • Complete physical exam
  • Review of your personal and family medical history
  • Discussion about your symptoms and lifestyle
  • Review of your previous tests, imaging studies and other pertinent medical records

Depending on your specific case and your previous test results, our physicians may recommend additional testing. We use these test results to precisely plan your procedure by:

  • Evaluating the extent of disease in a heart valve, to decide whether to repair or replace the valve
  • Determining the best access point for a catheter procedure, whether through the leg, wrist or chest
  • Assessing the size and shape of the heart for abnormalities that may indicate structural problems
  • Guiding the physician during minimally invasive heart procedures

Henry Ford: cardiac diagnostic tests we use

Our highly skilled imaging technologists have deep experience in providing detailed images and information using the most advanced diagnostic tools, including:

  • Cardiac catheterization: Our physicians use this minimally invasive procedure to examine, diagnose and often treat heart conditions. We insert a catheter (thin, flexible tube) and tiny instruments through a blood vessel in the groin or wrist or through a small chest incision.
  • Chest X-ray: This imaging technology uses low doses of radiation to produce images of the heart. We use chest X-rays to check for abnormal size or shape of the heart. This test can also show problems with the position and shape of the large arteries that send blood to the lungs and the rest of the body.
  • Heart CT (computed tomography) scan: A heart CT scan uses X-rays taken from different angles to create detailed, cross-sectional pictures of the heart and its blood vessels. With this specialized CT scan, we evaluate how well the heart is pumping. We use it to diagnose or detect heart valve disease and other heart problems.
  • Echocardiogram (echo): This ultrasound test uses sound waves to create moving pictures of the heart. We use echo to:
    • See how well the heart valves and chambers are working
    • Check for blood clots inside the heart
    • Look for structural problems such as an enlarged heart or holes in the heart
  • Transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE): This advanced imaging technique uses sound waves to create an echocardiogram from inside the esophagus, which is just behind the heart. In a TEE, the physician guides a thin, flexible ultrasound probe down your throat and into your esophagus (the tube connecting your mouth to your stomach). You will have general anesthetic so that you are asleep during the TEE procedure.
  • Intracardiac echocardiogram: This advanced technology provides detailed moving pictures of the heart from the inside. Intracardiac echo is a more comfortable alternative than transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) because it requires only a local anesthetic and less time to perform. During an intracardiac echo, we insert a catheter-based ultrasound probe into a vein in the groin and guide it inside the heart. We use this type of echo as a diagnostic tool and as a guide for many of our minimally invasive heart procedures.
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG): This technology uses electrodes (sticky patches) attached to the skin in several areas on the chest, arms and legs. Wires connect the electrodes to a machine that records the electrical activity of the heart. We use EKG to measure all types of heart symptoms, including:
    • Damage to the heart muscle, possibly caused by a heart attack
    • How fast your heart is beating and whether it is beating normally
    • Size and position of your heart chambers in case any are enlarged
  • Cardiac MRI (magnetic resonance imaging): This imaging method uses powerful magnets and radio waves to produce still or moving images of the heart. We use cardiac MRI to evaluate the heart as it beats, so we can check for heart valve or other structural problems and assess their severity.
  • Doppler ultrasound: Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of organs and structures inside the body. We use Doppler ultrasound to see the speed and direction of blood flow through the heart valves so we can measure how much the valves may be narrowed or leaking.

Henry Ford: patient education for structural heart disease and treatment

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