The Bon Secours Heart & Vascular Institute offers the latest in imaging and diagnostic technology to provide each patient a rapid and accurate diagnosis. There are many diagnostic tests your doctor may order to determine if you have heart or vascular disease.
diagnostic tests and procedures include:
- Advanced Lipid Testing – This extensive blood test goes beyond the traditional lipid (cholesterol) panel to uncover a patient’s risk for coronary artery disease and other chronic conditions, such as diabetes. The test results include: traditional lipid profile, lipoprotein particles, inflammation, heart function, genetics and metabolism.
- CT Heart Scan – A heart scan, also called coronary calcium scoring, employs a state-of-the-art CT imaging system to capture images of your heart to measure the buildup of calcified plaque in your heart’s arteries. The result is called a coronary calcium score. Your physician will use your calcium score to help determine the best treatment to lower your risk for heart attack. A heart scan is the most effective noninvasive method to identify the presence of CAD (coronary artery disease).
- Cardiac CT or Angiogram – An angiogram uses CT technology and intravenous contrast material to determine if your heart’s blood vessels are blocked or narrowed, where and by how An angiogram can help your doctor discern if you need treatment such as angioplasty or stent, coronary artery bypass surgery (CABG) or medical therapy.
- Cardiac MRI – Cardiovascular MRI is a completely noninvasive procedure. It provides 3-D imaging of the heart and blood vessels to aid in the diagnosis of heart disease and other heart conditions. The test is performed using a large magnet with high magnetic field, radio frequency waves and powerful computers. This test is typically performed without a need for an IV or administration of a contrast agent in most cases, but in few select cases gadolinium contrast agent is used. There is no risk of contrast causing damage to the kidneys. There is no X-ray radiation involved.
- Structure and function – Cardiac MRI determines critical measurements that cardiologists use on a daily basis, including the left and right ventricular ejection fraction, stroke volume, mass and valvular function. It also evaluates for congenital heart disease and cardiac tumors or masses.
- Stress testing – It is routinely used for cardiac stress testing using adenosine or dobutamine drugs when patients cannot perform a treadmill stress test.
- After a heart attack – Cardiac MRI is used to assess heart function and muscle viability after a heart attack.
- Echocardiogram – An echocardiogram is a noninvasive, risk-free test that uses ultrasound waves to assess cardiac structure and mobility, particularly used to assess valve function. During the test, a small transducer is held against the chest. The transducer sends ultrasound waves that bounce off parts of the heart. A computer uses the information coming from the transducer to make an image of the heart. The image is displayed on a monitor and gives doctors information about the heart, such as:
- Size of the heart – It measures the size of the heart chambers, thickness of the heart muscle, and any defects.
- Pumping strength – It determines whether the heart is pumping at full strength or is weakened.
- Valve problems – It evaluates if a valve is narrowed or leaking and shows the severity of the valve problem.
- Other uses – Echo may be used to detect the presence of fluid around the heart, blood clots or masses inside the heart, and abnormal holes between the heart chambers. Sometimes, the echo is combined with an exercise or stress test to see how well the heart pumps when it is accelerated.
- Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) – An electrocardiogram is a painless, noninvasive test that allows the doctor to see the electrical impulses of your heart. An ECG can be done in a resting state or an active state. During the test, a technician will place approximately 10 electrode patches on your arms, legs and chest. The electrode patches are hooked to an electrocardiography machine, which displays the electrical activity of your heart and provides the following information:
- Heart attack – EKGs show whether you are currently having a heart attack or have had one in the past, and can help differentiate between chest pain (angina) and a heart attack.
- Heart rate and rhythm – EKGs show how fast or slow your heart is beating, and if the beats are regular or irregular.
- Heart structure – EKGs indicate the size and configuration of the heart and any possible defects.
- Stress testing – A stress test uses electrocardiography, echocardiography, and/or nuclear imaging to monitor and assess the heart under stress. A stress test evaluates the heart’s function, mainly the left ventricle (main pumping chamber) when the heart is under stress. Normally, all areas of the heart muscle pump more vigorously during exercise. If an area of the heart muscle does not pump as it should with exercise, it is often an indication that it is not receiving enough blood because of a blocked or narrowed artery. A stress test can show areas of the heart that do not receive an adequate blood supply. However, it does not provide images of the actual coronary arteries. This test can:
- Evaluate the risk for coronary artery disease
- Determine if the symptoms (i.e., chest pain or pressure, shortness of breath, unexplained fatigue, palpitations, lightheadedness, etc.) are caused by a blockage to the heart or other heart conditions
- Detect heart problems that may not be present at rest
- Evaluate cardiac clearance before surgery or other procedure
- Determine an appropriate rehabilitation program following a balloon angioplasty or bypass surgery
- Nuclear imaging – Small amounts of a safe radioactive solution are injected into the body to assess blood flow to your heart muscle, detect heart damage, and assess heart function. A nuclear camera detects the solution and produces images of the radioactivity distributed in the heart. The exposure to radiation is comparable to that from an X-ray or CAT (CT) scan. Nuclear imaging can be combined with an exercise or stress test to see how well the heart pumps when it is accelerated.
- Tilt table testing – This test is used to determine why a patient is fainting (fainting is also called syncope). Fainting or syncope occurs for many reasons. It is important to determine the cause of the syncope to understand the risks and severity of future fainting episodes. A tilt table can provide this information. The most common type of syncope is vasovagal syncope due to an abnormal neurological reflex. While this cause of fainting can be frightening to those who witness it, fainting is rarely life-threatening. People with simple fainting experience a sudden drop in blood pressure and/or heart rate, often while they are standing or sitting.