Diagnostic testing
Make an appointment

Call 763-236-9450.

Cardiac Diagnostic Center
The Cardiac Diagnostic Center is on the east third floor of Mercy Hospital – Unity Campus in Fridley.

Find us

Diagnostic testing

Cardiac diagnostic testing

Mercy Hospital and Metropolitan Cardiology (MCC) offer a complete range of diagnostic services to help physicians evaluate a your heart function and determine a plan of care.

All tests are performed at Mercy Hospital’s Cardiac Diagnostic Center on the east third floor on the Unity Campus.

Tests performed at the Cardiac Diagnostic Center include:

An echocardiogram (echo) is an ultrasound study of your heart muscle, heart valves and pericardium (sac surrounding the heart) and some of the major blood vessels connected to the heart. The test uses sound waves to see how well your heart is working.

A wand-like instrument makes the sound waves. As the wand is moved over your chest, pictures of the heart appear on a screen and are recorded.

You may be asked to lie in different positions on a bed or stretcher. The echo technician will place electrodes on your chest and may need to reach closely across your chest to get good echo pictures. The test takes 30-45 minutes.

Echocardiogram with bubble study

A bubble study can be used to add information to a regular echocardiogram or to a transesophageal echocardiogram. The most common reason for doing a bubble study is to look at the wall (septum) that divides the heart down the middle.

A bubble study works by injecting saline (salt water) solution into your veins and then performing an ultrasound image as it flows through your heart. This test will take about 30 minutes added to an echocardiogram. (See echocardiogram for further information.)

Echocardiogram with a contrast agent

Using a contrast agent can improve the quality of pictures obtained during an echo or a stress echo. This may help the physician to better interpret or read your echo images. To give the contrast agent, a nurse will place a small intravenous (IV) catheter in a vein that will be removed when the test is completed. A small amount of the contrast agent is slowly injected and flushed with saline. One or more doses may be needed and you will be monitored after the test for approximately 30 minutes. (See Stress Testing and Echocardiogram for more information.)

A stress echocardiogram (echo) measures how well your heart responds to exercise. It is similar to an echocardiogram, and is used to record images of your heart before and after exercise. The test takes 60 minutes.

Dobutamine stress echocardiogram

If you have a physical problem that prevents you from walking on a treadmill, your physician may order a stress echocardiogram using a medication called dobutamine. Dobutamine will cause your heart rate to slowly increase and your heart to pump harder, simulating how your heart responds to exercise. The test takes 60 - 90 minutes.

A transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) obtains images of your heart from a small ultrasound probe (about the size of a normal piece of food) at the end of a small flexible tube that you swallow. The TEE gives excellent pictures of the heart because the heart lies in front of the esophagus.

Do not eat or drink anything for six hours before the test. It is important that you ask your doctor for instructions about taking your medicines.

You will be given medicine to help numb the back of your throat. This will make swallowing the tube easier. You will also be given sedating medicine through an intravenous (IV) line that will help you relax and decrease your gag reflex.

This test requires 1-1/2 to two hours to complete. You will need a responsible adult who can drive you home and stay with you for 12 hours after the test.

An electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) is a recording of the electrical activity of your heart. Small, sticky patches are placed on your chest, arms and legs. These patches are connected to a machine that records the electrical activity of your heart, then prints this out on paper for a physician to interpret. The test usually takes less than 15 minutes to complete.

An exercise stress test is an electrocardiogram (EKG) taken and analyzed while you are walking on a treadmill. You will be monitored during the test as the speed and elevation of the treadmill changes to make the heart work harder. Your blood pressure is also checked periodically through the test to see how it also responds to exercise. You are allowed to rest afterward and are given drinks of water at the end of the test.

You will want to wear comfortable clothes and tennis shoes to exercise on the treadmill and will be asked to not eat or to drink nothing except water within two hours. Your physician will also ask that you not take certain medications, such as your blood pressure or heart rate medications. Please check with your physician on these orders. This test takes about one hour to complete.

Exercise stress test

This is also known as a Cardiolite stress test. This test allows your doctor to see if your heart muscle is getting the amount of blood that it needs through your coronary arteries.

There are two parts to the test, a “stress” portion and a “rest” portion. Images of your heart will be taken with each portion. A small amount of a safe radioactive medicine, needed for the images, will be injected into your arm for both portions of the test.

For the “stress” portion, you will walk on a treadmill until you reach a target heart rate. The medicine will be injected into your IV as you walk on the treadmill. After a short wait, you will lie on the exam table while a camera takes images of your heart.

For the “rest” portion, you will receive an injection of the radioactive medicine and have images taken.

Comparing the “stress” and “rest” images will help your doctor evaluate any areas where blood flow may be decreased to your heart muscle.

The complete test may take one to two days to complete. You will know when your appointment is scheduled if it will be one or two days.

If you are taking medicines, talk with your doctor about which ones you may take before each portion of the test.

Nuclear myocardial perfusion imaging with adenosine or dobutamine

If you cannot walk on a treadmill or cannot walk long enough, your doctor may order this stress test to be done with a special medicine, rather than exercise. The medications are given intravenously (through an IV). The imaging portion of test is the same as an exercise-based test.

Your doctor may want to observe your heart rhythm during your normal, everyday activities. For this test you will wear a small, portable EKG machine on a belt or shoulder strap for 24 hours. You will be asked to keep a diary of your activities and any unusual feelings that you have such as a fast heart rate, shortness of breath, chest pressure or chest pain.
This test will help your doctor see how well your heart is pumping. A very low dose of radioactive medicine is injected into your IV. Using a computer and a sensitive radiation detector, the radiation within your heart is measured and displayed on a video monitor. Before and after the test, you may eat and drink as usual and take your medicines.