Diagnostic Heart Tests in the
New and advanced diagnostic heart tests and tools are constantly being introduced to further understand the complexity of heart disease, injury and congenital or acquired abnormalities. The following are a few of the diagnostic tests that help in further understanding and identifying cardiovascular disease. For more specific information our comprehensive heart tests, consult your cardiologist or physician.
Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)
An electrocardiogram is used to monitor your heart. Each beat of your heart is triggered by an electrical impulse generated from special cells in the upper right chamber of your heart. An electrocardiogram, also called an ECG or EKG, records these electrical signals as they travel through your heart. Your doctor can use an electrocardiogram to look for patterns among these heartbeats and rhythms to diagnose various heart conditions.
An electrocardiogram is a painless, noninvasive way to diagnose many common types of heart problems. Your doctor may use an electrocardiogram to detect:
- Irregularities in your heart rhythm (arrhythmias)
- Heart defects
- Problems with your heart's valves
- Blocked or narrowed arteries in your heart (coronary artery disease)
- A heart attack, in emergency situations
- A previous heart attack
Signal Average Electrocardiogram (SAE)
A heart test that is much like an EKG, but takes longer because it records more information.
Stress Test (Exercise Stress Test or Treadmill Test)
A stress test, also called an exercise stress test or treadmill test, is used to gather information about how well your heart works during physical activity. Because exercise makes your heart pump harder and faster than it does during most daily activities, an exercise stress test can reveal problems within your heart that might not be noticeable otherwise.
An exercise stress test usually involves walking on a treadmill while your heart rhythm, blood pressure and breathing are monitored by a Registered Nurse and physician.
Your doctor may recommend an exercise stress test if he or she suspects you have coronary artery disease (CAD) or an irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia). An exercise stress test may also be used to guide your treatment if you've already been diagnosed with a heart condition.
Some heart problems, particularly those involving the coronary arteries that supply blood to your heart muscle, occur only during physical activity. For a stress echocardiogram, ultrasound images of your heart are taken before and immediately after walking on a treadmill. If you're unable to exercise, you may get an injection of a medication to make your heart work as hard as if you were exercising.
A technician (cardiac sonographer) spreads gel on your chest and then presses a device known as a transducer firmly against your skin, aiming an ultrasound beam through your chest to your heart. The transducer records the sound wave echoes your heart produces. A computer converts the echoes into moving images on a monitor.
Transesophageal Echocardiogram (TEE)
If it's difficult to get a clear picture of your heart with a standard echocardiogram, your doctor may recommend a transesophageal echocardiogram. In this procedure, a flexible tube containing a transducer is guided down your throat and into your esophagus, which connects your mouth to your stomach. From there, the transducer can obtain more-detailed images of your heart. Your throat will be numbed, and you'll have medications to help you relax during the transesophageal echocardiogram.
Coronary arteriogram (or angiogram)
With this procedure, x-rays are taken after a contrast agent is injected into an artery - to locate the narrowing, occlusions, and other abnormalities of specific arteries.
Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scan
A nuclear scan that gives information about the flow of blood through the coronary arteries to the heart muscle.
PET F-18 FDG (Fluorodeoxyglucose) Scan
A glucose scan sometimes done immediately after the PET scan to determine if heart muscle has permanent damage.
Resting SPECT Thallium Scan or Myocardial Perfusion Scan
A nuclear scan given while the patient is at rest that may reveal areas of the heart muscle that are not getting enough blood.
Exercise Thallium Scan or Myocardial Perfusion Scan
A nuclear scan given while the patient is exercising that may reveal areas of the heart muscle that are not getting enough blood.
Persantine Thallium Scan or Myocardial Perfusion Scan
A nuclear scan given to a patient who is unable to exercise to reveal areas of the heart muscle that are not getting enough blood.
Resting Gated Blood Pool Scan (RGBPS), Resting MUGA, or Resting Radionuclide Angiography
A nuclear scan to see how the heart wall moves and how much blood is expelled with each heartbeat while the patient is at rest.
Exercise Gated Blood Pool Scan , Exercise MUGA, or Exercise Radionuclide Angiography
A nuclear scan to see how the heart wall moves and how much blood is expelled with each heartbeat, just after the patient has walked on a treadmill or ridden on a stationary bike.
Resting First Pass
The scan taken while the patient is at rest to measure the percentage of blood going through the heart with each beat.
Exercise First Sass
The scan taken while the patient is exercising to measure the percentage of blood going through the heart with each beat.
A Holter monitor is a small, wearable device that records your heart rhythm. You usually wear a Holter monitor for one to three days, and during that time, the device will record all of your heartbeats. The Holter monitor test is usually performed after an EKG (electrocardiogram). If the EKG is not able to give your doctor enough information about your particular heart condition, the Holter monitor will be used. A Holter monitor has electrodes that are attached to your chest with adhesive and then are connected to a recording device. Your doctor uses information captured on the Holter monitor's recording device to figure out if you have a heart rhythm problem. While wearing a Holter monitor may be a little inconvenient, it's an important test that may help your doctor diagnose your condition.
The event recorder, similar to a Holter monitor, is worn during normal daily activities including sleeping; however, it is worn for a longer period of time. You will learn how to take the device off during showers and baths. It is used for arrhythmias that occur less frequently. Small electrodes are attached to your chest. Wires are attached from the electrodes to a box about the size of a deck of cards and worn on a belt or shoulder strap.
When you feel symptoms, you press a button and the recorder is activated. The monitor records the event for the 60 seconds prior to your pushing the button and up to 40 seconds after the arrhythmia is over. The event monitor can store up to three events.
The rhythm can be sent immediately or saved and transmitted later, over the phone line. The technician will give the recordings to your doctor for review. If the reading indicates an emergency, the technician will instruct you to go to the emergency room.
Tilt Table Test
A test performed while the patient is connected to ECG and blood pressure monitors and strapped to a table that tilts in different directions. This test is to determine if the patient is prone to sudden drops in blood pressure or slow pulse rates.
A heart test in which insulated electric catheters are placed inside the heart to study the heart's electrical system.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
MRI tests use magnetic technology to creates images of and assess cardiac function and the extent of heart damage in those with blockages of heart arteries.
CAT Scan Angiogram (CTA)
CTA tests use computerized x-ray scanning and are a less invasive way to look at the heart, heart arteries and aortas. Both MRI and CTA tests form three-dimensional imaging of the areas under examination.
A heart test in which a small catheter (hollow tube) is guided through a vein or artery into the heart. An iodine compound (a colorless, liquid "dye") is given through the catheter, and moving x-ray pictures are made as the dye travels through the heart. This comprehensive test shows: narrowing in the arteries, outside heart size, inside chamber size, pumping ability of the heart, ability of the valves to open and close, as well as a measurement of the pressures within the heart.
Pulmonary Function Test
An examination measuring an individual's lung capacity, speed of exhalation and oxygenation after a period of exertion. This type of test in useful in the diagnosis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), occupational lung disease, emphysema and asthma.
Monitoring of several physiological activities in a sleeping person. Usually performed to figure out whether or not someone has a sleep disorder.
Vascular studies are a noninvasive procedure (using technology such as ultrasound) to assess the blood flow in arteries and veins.
The EEG is a record of the patient's electrical brain activity. It is carried out by placing a collection of electrodes on the patient's scalp, held temporarily in place with an adhesive. A disturbance of brain waves can provide significant clues to the nature of an epileptic syndrome. An outpatient EEG recording usually takes up to 1-2 hours. More information can be taken if the patient can fall asleep during the exam. To facilitate this, we recommend limiting the patient's sleep to 4-6 hours during the previous 24 hours. This enables the patient to fall asleep during the recording.