Diagnostic Tests for Heart Conditions | Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute
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Diagnostic Tests for Heart Conditions

Diagnostic Tests for Heart Conditions

Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute offers state-of-the-art cardiovascular diagnostic services. Our experienced doctors and trained staff perform a full range of diagnostic heart tests.

New and advanced diagnostic tests and tools are constantly being introduced at the Institute to further understand the complexity of disease, injury, and congenital (present at birth) or acquired abnormalities. The following are just a few of the diagnostic tests that have been used or are being used to further understand and identify cardiovascular disease. For more specific information, consult your cardiologist or other healthcare provider:

  • Electrocardiogram (EKG). A test that records the electrical activity of the heart, shows abnormal rhythms (arrhythmias), and can sometimes detect heart muscle damage.

  • Electrocardiography (ECG). A technician attaches wires to the body and reads the electrical activity of the heart.

  • Computed Tomography (CT). This imaging procedure uses an X-ray machine and computer to create 3-D pictures of the heart and the vessels in and around the heart. Sometimes a dye is injected into a vein so that the heart arteries can be seen, as well. Doctors can also use CT to calculate your cardiac calcium score. Calcium levels within the arteries of your heart can reveal early heart disease and predict how serious your risk might be.

  • Coronary CTA. Coronary CT angiography allows doctors to assess how well your heart functions. CT images taken with contrast dye are used to create 3-D pictures of the arteries of your heart. These images can reveal plaque buildup.

  • Cardiac MRI. Similar to MRI used elsewhere in the body, this test uses large magnets and radiofrequency waves to take pictures of the structures of the heart. The test also shows your heart function.

  • Angiography. X-ray images and contrast dye produce a picture of blood flow in the arteries of your heart and elsewhere. A doctor may also order a cardiac magnetic resonance angiogram (MRA), a test that uses large magnets and radiofrequency waves to produce high-quality still and moving pictures of the arteries.

  • Peripheral vascular ultrasound. This test uses ultrasound (sound waves) to make pictures of the arteries and veins in your legs and arms. Results show the structure of your blood vessels and blood flow.

  • Echocardiography. This test uses ultrasound (sounds waves) to make pictures of your heart and how the blood flows in and around your heart.

  • Home heart monitor. Some patients wear a portable device that records the heart’s blood pressure and electrical activity during normal activities. Typically the monitor is worn from 24 hours up to 30 days.

  • Stress test (also called treadmill or exercise EKG). A test that is given while a person walks on a treadmill or pedals a stationary bike 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 or 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 evaluate the heart's chambers and valves. The echo sound waves create an image on the monitor as an ultrasound probe is passed over the heart.

  • Transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE). A test in which a small probe, about the size of a little finger, is swallowed and passed down the esophagus.

  • 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 specialized PET scan that uses a form of glucose to help determine if any specific areas of heart tissue have experienced permanent damage due to decreased blood flow. It may be used after a heart attack to determine which procedure, such as angioplasty or stenting of the coronary arteries or bypass surgery, may be beneficial. This test involves having a glucose solution injected through an IV into your blood. Then a special camera takes pictures of where the solution collects in your heart.

  • Thallium scans or myocardial perfusion scans. Similar to the PET scan, these tests involve an IV injection and a special camera:

  • Resting SPECT thallium scan or myocardial perfusion scan. A nuclear scan done while the person 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 done while the person is exercising that may reveal areas of the heart muscle that are not getting enough blood.
  • Adenosine or Persantine thallium scan or myocardial perfusion scan. A nuclear scan done on a person who is unable to exercise that reveals areas of the heart muscle that are not getting enough blood. Special medications may be given that stress the heart in the same way exercise does.
  • MUGA scans/radionuclide angiography (RNA) scans. Similar to the PET scan, these tests involve an IV injection and a special camera:

  • Resting gated blood pool scan (RGBPS), resting MUGA, or resting radionuclide angiography. A nuclear scan to evaluate how well 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 evaluate how well the heart wall moves and how much blood is expelled with each heartbeat, just after the person has walked on a treadmill or ridden on a stationary bike.

  • Holter monitor. A small, portable, battery-powered EKG machine worn by a person to record heartbeats on tape over a period of 24 to 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 person to record EKG over a long period. A person may keep the recorder for several weeks. Each time symptoms are experienced, the person presses a button on the recorder to record the EKG sample. As soon as possible, this sample is transmitted to the doctor's office for evaluation.

  • Loop recorder. A surgically implanted device about the size of a zip drive that is placed under the skin to monitor and record the heartbeats for up to two years.

  • Tilt table test. A test done while the person is connected to EKG and blood pressure monitors and strapped to a table that tilts the person from a lying to standing position. This test is used to determine if the person is prone to sudden drops in blood pressure or slow pulse rates with position changes.

  • Electrophysiology study. A test in which insulated electric catheters are placed through the large vein in the upper leg and threaded into the heart. It is used to test the heart's electrical system to find irregular heart rhythms.

  • Cardiac catheterization (also called coronary angiogram). A test in which a small catheter (hollow tube) is guided through the large artery in the upper leg, or sometimes the wrist or arm, into the heart. 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, heart chamber size, pumping ability of the heart and ability of the valves to open and close, as well as a measurement of the pressures within the heart chambers and arteries.

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the heart. A diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body. MRI of the heart may be used to evaluate the heart valves and major vessels, detect coronary artery disease and the extent of damage it has caused, evaluate congenital defects and detect the presence of tumors or other abnormalities. The cardiac MRI may be used prior to other cardiac procedures such as angioplasty or stenting of the coronary arteries and cardiac or vascular surgery:

  • Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) of the heart. A specialized type of MRI procedure used to evaluate blood vessels in the heart.

  • Cardiac CT scan. This imaging procedure uses an X-ray machine and a computer to create a 3-D pictures of the heart. Sometimes a dye is injected into a vein so that the heart arteries can be seen as well.

Compassionate Care

Coming in for testing makes some people feel anxious. The Institute’s reputation for quality and patient-centered cardiovascular healthcare can give you and your family greater peace of mind. Most diagnostic services can be done on an outpatient basis, making it more convenient for you.

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