Detection of structural heart disease begins by obtaining a good family medical history and performing a physical examination. This first step often provides important clues. For example, a patient may be at greater risk for a structural heart condition if there is a family history of some sort of related heart conditions.
If structural heart disease is suspected, a patient may undergo a diagnostic study, the most common is an echocardiogram, or an ultrasound of the heart.
An echocardiogram can be performed two ways: on the surface of the body, where a jelly is applied to the chest and the probes are placed to obtain images of the heart (transthoracic echocardiogram, TTE) or by going down the throat (transesophageal echocardiogram, TEE). A TEE is more invasive, but the images tend to be more detailed.