Diagnostic Tests

New and advanced diagnostic tests and tools are constantly being introduced to further understand the complexity of disease, injury, and congenital or acquired abnormalities. The following are just a few of the diagnostic tests that have been used/are being used to further understand and identify cardiovascular disease. For more specific information, consult your cardiologist or physician.

Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)
A test that records the electrical activity of the heart, shows abnormal rhythms (arrhythmias or dysrhythmias), and detects heart muscle damage.

Signal Average Electrocardiogram (SAE)
A test that is much like an EKG, but takes longer because it records more information.

Stress Test(usually with ECG; also called treadmill or exercise ECG)
A test that is given while a patient walks on a treadmill to monitor the heart during exercise. Breathing and blood pressure rates are also monitored. A stress test may be used to detect coronary artery disease, and/or to determine safe levels of exercise following a heart attack or heart surgery.

Echocardiogram (also known as echo)
A noninvasive test that uses sound waves to produce a study of the motion of the heart's chambers and valves. The echo sound waves create an image on the monitor as an ultrasound transducer is passed over the heart.

Transesophageal Echocardiogram(TEE)
A test in which a small transducer is passed down the esophagus to provide a clearer image of the heart structure.

Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scan
A nuclear scan that gives information about the flow of blood through the coronary arteries to the heart muscle.

Myocardial Perfusion Study
This Nuclear Medicine Scan can be used to determine whether a person has a blockage or narrowing of the arteries that feed the heart muscle. It can also be used as a follow-up to other procedures such as an angiogram or cardiac bypass surgery.

Resting Myocardial Perfusion Scan
A radioactive isotope is injected into a vein in the patient's arm. This material concentrates within the muscle of the heart. Images are then taken, showing the areas in heart that is receiving adequate blood flow via the coronary arteries. This serves as a baseline for the exercise portion of the study.

Exercise Myocardial Perfusion Scan
The radioactive isotope is injected into a vein during exercise testing on a treadmill. Once a person's heart rate is increased, a blockage will cause a decrease in concentration of the isotope in the heart muscle. Nuclear imaging is done following the completion of the stress test.

Pharmaceutical Myocardial Perfusion Scan
When a person cannot exercise, a pharmaceutical stress test may be substituted for the exercise portion of the test. Adenosine and Dobutamine are the medications that are used to simulate the affects of walking on a treadmill. During the stress test the radioactive isotope is injected into the person's vein. A blockage will cause a decrease in concentration of the isotope in the heart muscle. Nuclear imaging is done following the completion of the stress test.

MUGA Scans
Resting Gated Blood Pool Scan or MUGA
The nuclear scan taken, while the patient is at rest, to measure the percentage of blood going through the heart with each beat.

Exercise Gated Blood Pool Scan or MUGA
The nuclear scan taken, while the patient is exercising, to measure the percentage of blood going through the heart with each beat.

Thallium Vialility Scans
This cardiac imaging is to confirm viable cardiac tissue. This may be used to determine whether a person would benefit from coronary bypass grafting or a heart transplant. The person is injected with a radioactive isotope and imaging is done after thirty minutes. This exam also consists of delayed imaging which often includes four hour post injection and twenty-four hour post injection.

Holter Monitor
A small, portable, battery-powered ECG machine worn by a patient to record heart beats on tape over a period of 24-48 hours -- during normal activities. At the end of the time period, the monitor is returned to the doctor's office so the tape can be read and evaluated.

Event Recorder
A small, portable, battery-powered machine used by a patient to record ECG over a long period of time. Patients may keep the recorder for several weeks. Each time symptoms are experienced, the patient presses a button on the recorder to record the ECG sample. As soon as possible, this sample is transmitted to the doctor's office by telephone hookup for evaluation.

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.

Electrophysiology Study
A test in which insulated electric catheters are placed inside the heart to study the heart's electrical system.

Cardiac Catheterization
During the test a local anesthetic is given and a small puncture is made, usually in the groin or arm. 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: narrowings 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.

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.
 

 
 
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