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If there is a heart murmur during an examination, your doctor or your child’s doctor may suspect an atrial septal defect or other heart defect. If a heart defect is suspected, your doctor may request one or more tests:

  • Echocardiography. This is the most commonly used test for diagnosing an atrial septal defect. Sound waves are used to create a video image of the heart. This allows your doctor to see your heart’s chambers and measure their strength and correct functioning.
    This test also checks the heart valves and detects signs of heart defects. Doctors can also use this test to evaluate your condition and determine a treatment plan.
  • Chest x-ray. This will help your doctor see the condition of your heart and lungs. An x-ray can reveal conditions other than heart disease that may explain your signs or symptoms.
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG). This test records the electrical activity of your heart and helps identify problems with your heart rate.
  • Cardiac catheterization. A thin flexible tube (catheter) is inserted into a blood vessel in the groin or arm and sent to the heart. With catheterization, doctors can diagnose congenital heart defects, check how well your heart is working, check the function of your heart valves, and measure blood pressure in your lungs.
    However, this test is usually not required to diagnose an atrial septal defect. Doctors can also use catheterization techniques to eliminate heart defects.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging. This method uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create three-dimensional images of your heart, other organs, and body tissues. Your doctor may request an MRI scan if echocardiography cannot definitively diagnose an atrial septal defect or related conditions.
  • Computer tomography. This uses a series of x-rays to create detailed images of your heart. It can be used to diagnose an atrial septal defect and related congenital heart defects, if echocardiography does not reveal an atrial septal defect.