Certain tests can determine the health of your heart while assessing any damage or disease. We offer the latest in diagnostic testing for measuring the electrical activity of your heart, measuring muscle or pumping function and identifying abnormalities or blockages in your arteries.
Often, your best chance of preventing or slowing the progress of heart disease depends on the accuracy of the initial diagnosis. Because we see many patients, Heart Care doctors and staff are experts at interpreting test results.
After the heart muscle has been injured, heart enzymes and muscle proteins are released into the bloodstream. Confirmation of a heart attack and the extent of the damage can be determined when there are elevated levels of these enzymes and proteins in your blood. A series of blood samples may be needed for diagnosis. It may take up to 24 hours to determine if there are any changes in these blood levels.
Calcium scoring CT scan
A calcium scoring CT (computed tomography) scan shows calcium in the major arteries of the heart. This test does not use dye. Sometimes a medication to slow down the heart rate is necessary to better see the calcium in the arteries. Go to HealthEast Radiology and make an appointment.
CT angiograms are non-invasive scans to see the blood flow in the arteries in the heart. A dye is injected in a vein so that the scanner can see the arteries in the heart.
An echocardiogram uses sound waves to see images of your heart muscle, its valves and the pumping function of your heart. A special instrument called a "transducer" is held on the chest by a technologist. The transducer picks up sound waves and uses them to create and project a picture of your heart on a screen. A recording is made for the cardiologist to review at a later time. The test takes approximately 30 minutes.
EKG/ECG or Electrocardiogram
For this test, electrodes are placed on the chest, arms and legs. The painless test shows 12 different views of your heart's electrical activity and heart rhythm. This test may show injury to the heart muscle and can help your doctor determine the location and extent of heart damage. It can also provide evidence of prior heart attacks.
Electrophysiology (EP) studies
An electrophysiology study (EP) is an accurate and reliable method of evaluating heart rhythms. This test may be prescribed if you have symptoms of palpitations, arrhythmia or abnormal heart beats.
During an EP study, a specially trained cardiologist called an electrophysiologist collects data on the flow of electricity in your heart. EP studies can help locate the specific areas of heart tissue that give rise to abnormal electrical impulses that cause arrhythmias. This detailed information allows the cardiac specialist to evaluate the abnormal heart beat to determine possible treatments.
Heart (cardiac) catheterization involves passing a thin, flexible tube called a catheter, through an artery or a vein to the heart and into a coronary artery. This procedure produces x-ray images or "angiograms" of the coronary arteries. This common procedure gathers information about blockages in the arteries and is often recommended when you have an artery that is partially or completely blocked.
Cardiac catheterizations are also used to gather samples of heart muscle that may be damaged, aid in the diagnosis of heart valve disease or measure blood pressure within the heart.
A small electronic recorder is used to record your heart's rhythm while you continue your normal at-home or at-work activities. The monitoring will take place for approximately 24 or 48 hours, during which time you will be asked to keep a diary of your activities and symptoms. Your doctor will let you know the amount of time for your particular test.
For nuclear studies, a tracer (a small amount of radioactive material) is given through a vein in your arm. A camera scans the tracer as it flows through your heart. Areas of the heart muscle that have good blood flow pick up the tracer material quickly, while areas that have less blood flow do not. The test takes approximately three to four hours and can also be used with stress testing (below).
A stress test measures your heart's function during physical activity. It shows the changes in the electrical system of the heart during physical stress. These changes often do not show up on a resting electrocardiogram alone. Your heart rate and EKG will be monitored continuously throughout the test, and your blood pressure will be checked at specific times.
Depending on your physical ability, the test may be done while you walk on a treadmill or ride a bicycle. Your doctor may also choose to give you a drug that simulates exercise by causing your heart to gradually beat faster and stronger. The test generally takes 60 to 90 minutes to complete.
Types of stress tests
Exercise or treadmill - This test is done on a motorized treadmill. The belt will start moving slowly and the walking surface will be flat. At intervals, the slope and speed of the treadmill will gradually increase, peak and then decrease.
The test is over when you reach a predetermined heart rate or signs of significant EKG changes are noted.
Bicycle - If you have difficulty walking, a stationary bike may be used rather than a treadmill.
Drug induced stress tests - This test, done while you are lying down, is usually prescribed for those who are unable to do an exercise stress test. Adenosine or Dobutamine are medications given through an IV while you are resting. These medications mimic the effects of exercise and raise the heart rate, even though the body is at rest.
Cardiolite or Thallium stress test - When a nuclear scan is ordered along with the stress test, an intravenous (IV) is started prior to the test. A small amount of Cardiolite or Thallium (radioactive material) is injected through the IV, allowing pictures of your heart to be taken with a scanner. These images show how much blood is getting to all areas of the heart muscle, both at rest and during exercise. This will help the doctor determine if there are any blockages in the blood vessels that supply blood to your heart. This procedure takes three to four hours. The radioactive material does not usually cause a reaction, and is easily eliminated through the urine.
Tilt table studies
Fainting spells can occur when your body does not properly regulate it’s blood pressure. To help diagnose the cause and treat fainting spells we offer a non-invasive test called a title table study.
During the test, you will be secured to a special table called a "tilt table." You will begin the test lying flat for approximately 20 to 30 minutes. The tilt bed will then change to an almost vertical position for another 20 to 30 minutes. You may feel dizzy, lightheaded, nauseous or even faint. It is important to let the staff know how you are feeling during the test. You will then be returned to a horizontal position and monitored for another 20 to 30 minutes. Your doctor may decide to give you some IV medication as part of your test. You may feel your heart pounding. Your test may last up to 2 to 3 hours.