Special tests


This test shows how well your heart is pumping. It also shows if your heart is enlarged, if there are any valve problems, or how thick your heart walls are.

This test shows your heart on a computer screen. Ultrasound waves bounce off your heart and create a picture on the screen.


This test records the electrical impulses that travel through your heart. It shows the rhythm and rate of your heartbeat.

The test is known as an ECG or EKG. You will have small pads(electrodes) placed on your chest, arms and legs. These pads are connected to some cables, which are connected to the ECG machine.


This test takes pictures of your heart and lungs. These pictures show the size and shape of your heart. X-rays can also show if there is fluid in your lungs.

Lab tests

These tests are done by testing small amounts of blood, urine or both. The results can show how well your kidneys or other organs are working. You may have your cholesterol or blood glucose levels checked. Another test can check the levels of a hormone (BNP) that is made and released when your heart is overworked or stressed.

Stress test

This test measures how your hard your heart works during activity. The test may be done while you walk on a treadmill, ride a stationary bike. Or, you may also be given a medicine that stresses your heart. You may also have an echocardiogram or other imaging tests done before and after the stress test. These tests show how your heart is responding.

Cardiac MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)

This test uses a large magnet, radio waves and a computer to show a special image of your heart.

Holter monitor

This test can find an abnormal heart rate or rhythm. You wear a portable monitor connected to your chest with patches. The monitor records changes in your heart's rhythm over several hours or days.

Cardiac catheterization

This test can help find clogged blood vessels. It can find heart problems with pumping, heart chambers, blood flow or valves.

X-ray dye is injected into your heart through a thin tube called a catheter. A special X-ray (angiogram) is taken of the blood vessels in your heart. This test can be done to measure the pressure on the right side of your heart and lungs.

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Heart Failure, fifth edition, 1-931876-31-2
First Published: 10/04/2002
Last Reviewed: 12/10/2015