There have been many advances in the medical technology used to fight heart disease in recent decades, but few of them are as important as the advances made in the non-invasive diagnosis of cardiovascular diseases. Much of the work of heart disease diagnosis is now done using non-invasive procedures that provide accurate “early warning” of potential heart problems while creating no distress to the patient.
What types of testing do your Phoenix heart doctors use?
After listening to your heart through a stethoscope to detect irregular heartbeats or murmurs, one of the first tests your heart doctor may perform is called an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG). This non-invasive test performs an electrical assessment of your heart to determine its “electrical footprint.” The results from an ECG test can reveal irregular heart rhythms and whether your heart is enlarged or damaged. ECG analysis can be expanded upon with the use of an echocardiogram, in which ultrasound waves are used to create a “real time” visual image of the heart as it pumps blood. Both of these tests are completely painless, require no preparation, and can be completed in a few short minutes.
Sometimes suspected heart arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats) do not show up clearly during the 3 to 5 seconds of heart activity captured by an ECG. In these cases, your heart doctor can have you wear a Holter monitor for 24 hours to detect symptoms of the heart racing or having palpitations during your daily activity. If these tests are still not conclusive, there are event monitors that can be worn for up to 30 days to get an even more precise picture. Both of these monitors are also non-invasive, and are worn unobtrusively under your clothing during the test.
Exercise stress tests and nuclear stress tests
If your Phoenix circulation doctor suspects that you may have coronary artery disease (CAD), and you have reported occasional chest pains or trouble breathing, they may recommend that you take an exercise stress test. You just walk on a treadmill while your blood pressure, ECG, and other vital signs are constantly monitored. Then the angle and pace of the treadmill are speeded up until you report any discomfort or distress. A stress test requires no preparation other than refraining from eating or drinking the morning of the test, and the actual walking part of the test takes only about ten minutes.
Because a standard treadmill stress test can occasionally generate false positive or negative results, your Phoenix heart care specialists may recommend a nuclear stress test, in which a harmless nuclear isotope is injected into your blood so that it can be tracked by a special camera watching your progress as you perform the test.
If you have experienced episodes of syncope (unexplained fainting), the doctor may recommend another non-invasive procedure called tilt table testing, in which you recline on a special table that raises you from a prone to an upright position while your heart activity is monitored. And if there are concerns about your cholesterol levels, advanced lipid testing can be performed, and requires only a blood sample.
How do I find out more?
If you have additional questions about the types of non-invasive diagnostic procedures commonly performed by our Phoenix cardiologists, please examine the Cardiology section of our website, which provides much more detailed information. Or give us a call and we’ll answer any questions you might have in an initial consultation.