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Types of tests

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.

Test descriptions

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.

Angiogram (or cardiac catheterization)
Blood tests
Cardiac CT (computed tomography) for calcium scoring
Chest X-ray
Dobutamine stress echocardiogram
Dual source CT (computed tomography) angiography
Echocardiogram/doppler exam
Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)
Electron beam computed tomography (EBCT)
Electrophysiology study (EPS)
Event monitor (cardio beeper test)
Exercise stress test, graded exercise test or treadmill test
Holter monitor
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
Noninvasive lower extremity exercise test for PAD (peripheral artery disease)
Noninvasive peripheral vascular exam
Nuclear myocardial scan/nuclear imaging test

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.

Peripheral angiogram or venogram
Positron emission tomography (PET) scan
Stress echocardiogram
Tilt study
Transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE)



Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Helping Your Heart, fourth edition, cvs-ahc-90648

First published: 10/04/2002
Last updated: 06/01/2007

Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts