Usually, you will first have the simplest test that might give a clear answer.
Check with your insurance provider to confirm your coverage. Ask if your test(s) will be covered and how much you owe (your copay).
If the diagnosis remains unknown, more complex testing may be ordered.
Your health care team will share with you information about each test, as well as information about how to prepare before it and what to expect.
Feel free to ask questions and talk about any concerns.
Did you know?
A test that uses sound waves to create images of your heart is completely safe.
No surgery or injections are needed. This is called a non-invasive procedure.
For some patients with images that are hard to see, a contrast agent (or dye) may be used. It is given through an intravenous (IV) line in your hand or arm. The procedure is still safe and still non-invasive.
An angiogram (or cardiac catheterization) allows your doctor to see how well your heart pumps blood through the arteries. The test is used to determine if there are areas of narrowing or blockage.
A catheter (small, thin tube), will be inserted through a blood vessel in your arm or leg. An X-ray dye (contrast) will be injected to allow the X-ray to "see" your arteries. The test takes about 45 minutes.
A CT (computed tomography) scan of the heart is done to get information about the location and size of calcified plaque in the arteries. The amount of calcium identified by
the CT scan is known as a calcium score.
The purpose of this test is to find coronary artery disease at an early state (when there are no symptoms) and to tell how severe it is. This test takes about 15 minutes.
This test allows your doctor to "see" your narrowed or clogged arteries.
Because the machine can scan faster than a beating heart, the cardiologist can give an exam to patients who have irregular heart rates and breathing (respiratory) disorders without first giving them medicine to slow their heart rates. This test takes about 15 minutes.
An electron beam computed tomography (EBCT) uses an ultra fast electron beam to take pictures of your heart.
The scanner can build a three-dimensional (3-D) image of your heart while it is in motion. The electron beam CT scans your heart and surrounding arteries to spot tiny,
hardened deposits of calcium without a dye injection.
These bits of hardened plaque can be early warning signs of heart disease. This scan shows the amount of calcium deposits you have in your heart. This scan takes about
A noninvasive peripheral vascular exam measures blood pressure and blood flow using sound waves created by a device called a doppler. You will have a test done while you rest and while you exercise on a treadmill.
This test helps tell if there are blockages in the leg arteries. This test takes about 30 minutes when looking at leg veins, and 45 minutes or longer when looking at the leg arteries.
A nuclear myocardial scan or nuclear imaging test helps measure how much blood flows through your heart's arteries. You will receive a small, safe dose of a radioactive material into a vein in your arm. A special camera will scan your heart. You will receive a second dose of the radioactive material while you exercise on a treadmill.
Do not eat or drink caffeine for 24 hours before the test.
If you cannot be on a treadmill, you will receive a medicine (such as adenosine) that dilates or relaxes the walls of the arteries of your heart. Arteries with blockages do not relax as much so there is not as much blood flow through them.
Dobutamine is a medicine that stimulates the "stress" of exercise by increasing the stress on your heart wall. The camera will scan your heart again. This test may take
2 1/2 to 3 hours.
A stress echocardiogram (echo) is a test to see how well your heart responds to exercise. This test uses ultrasound with a regular stress test to record images of your heart before and after exercise. (See exercise stress test above.) This test will take about 1 hour.
A tilt study is a test used to find out the cause of your fainting. The test tries to make your body react like it does before and during a fainting spell.
A special table turns or tilts you from a flat to a head-upright position. Your doctor will watch and record your heart rate and blood pressure during the test. Medicine may be needed to help the doctor find out what is wrong. This test may take 1 to 3 hours.
A transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) uses ultrasound images of your heart from inside your esophagus (swallowing or food tube).
You will swallow a flexible tube (the size of an index finger) that has a small ultrasound transducer on the end. Once you have swallowed the tube, the doctor will take close-up ultrasound pictures of your heart. This test will take about 1 hour.