Symptoms or the physical examination may suggest a cardiovascular disorder. For confirmation, selected noninvasive and invasive cardiac tests Overview of Cardiovascular Tests and Procedures Many noninvasive and invasive tests can delineate cardiac structure and function (see table Tests for Assessing Cardiac Anatomy and Function). Also, treatments can be administered during certain... read more are usually done.
A thorough history is fundamental; it cannot be replaced by testing. The history must include a thorough systems review because many symptoms apparently occurring in other systems (eg, dyspnea, indigestion) are often caused by cardiac disease. A family history is taken because many cardiac disorders (eg, coronary artery disease Overview of Coronary Artery Disease Coronary artery disease (CAD) involves impairment of blood flow through the coronary arteries, most commonly by atheromas. Clinical presentations include silent ischemia, angina pectoris, acute... read more , systemic hypertension Hypertension Hypertension is sustained elevation of resting systolic blood pressure (≥ 130 mm Hg), diastolic blood pressure (≥ 80 mm Hg), or both. Hypertension with no known cause (primary; formerly, essential... read more , bicuspid aortic valve Bicuspid Aortic Valve Bicuspid aortic valve is the presence of only two (rather than the normal three) valve cusps. Bicuspid aortic valve is the most common congenital cardiovascular abnormality. It is present in... read more , hypertrophic cardiomyopathy Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a congenital or acquired disorder characterized by marked ventricular hypertrophy with diastolic dysfunction but without increased afterload (eg, due to valvular... read more , mitral valve prolapse Mitral Valve Prolapse (MVP) Mitral valve prolapse (MVP) is a billowing of mitral valve leaflets into the left atrium during systole. The most common cause is idiopathic myxomatous degeneration. MVP is usually benign, but... read more ) have a heritable basis.
Serious cardiac symptoms include chest pain Chest Pain Chest pain is a very common complaint. Many patients are well aware that it is a warning of potential life-threatening disorders and seek evaluation for minimal symptoms. Other patients, including... read more or discomfort, dyspnea Dyspnea Dyspnea is unpleasant or uncomfortable breathing. It is experienced and described differently by patients depending on the cause. Although dyspnea is a relatively common problem, the pathophysiology... read more , weakness Weakness Weakness is one of the most common reasons patients present to primary care clinicians. Weakness is loss of muscle strength, although many patients also use the term when they feel generally... read more , fatigue Fatigue Fatigue occurs most often as part of a symptom complex, but even when it is the sole or main presenting symptom, fatigue is one of the most common symptoms. Fatigue is difficulty initiating... read more , palpitations Palpitations Palpitations are the perception of cardiac activity. They are often described as a fluttering, racing, or skipping sensation. They are common; some patients find them unpleasant and alarming... read more , light-headedness, sense of an impending faint, syncope Syncope Syncope is a sudden, brief loss of consciousness with loss of postural tone followed by spontaneous revival. The patient is motionless and limp and usually has cool extremities, a weak pulse... read more , and edema Edema Edema is swelling of soft tissues due to increased interstitial fluid. The fluid is predominantly water, but protein and cell-rich fluid can accumulate if there is infection or lymphatic obstruction... read more . These symptoms commonly occur in more than one cardiac disorder and in noncardiac disorders.
The general cardiovascular examination Cardiovascular Examination Complete examination of all systems is essential to detect peripheral and systemic effects of cardiac disorders and evidence of noncardiac disorders that might affect the heart. Examination... read more and cardiac auscultation Cardiac Auscultation Auscultation of the heart requires excellent hearing and the ability to distinguish subtle differences in pitch and timing. Hearing-impaired health care practitioners can use amplified stethoscopes... read more are discussed elsewhere. Despite the ever-increasing use of cardiac imaging, bedside examination remains useful as it is always available and can be repeated as often as desired without the cost of a formal imaging test. Clinician-operated bedside devices, such as the sphygmomanometer and the stethoscope, have long been a part of the physical examination. More recently, point-of-care ultrasonography Point-of-Care Ultrasonography (POCUS) Complete examination of all systems is essential to detect peripheral and systemic effects of cardiac disorders and evidence of noncardiac disorders that might affect the heart. Examination... read more done by the clinician at the bedside has come to be considered an extension of the physical examination.