To rule out cardiovascular disease, your physician may schedule certain diagnostic tests to be performed at a cardiac care center. Doctors may recommend testing when patients present chest pain, shortness of breath, left arm pain, high blood pressure, or extreme fatigue. Here are some commonly prescribed diagnostic tests that may help your physician rule out cardiovascular disease.
Also known as an echocardiogram, a cardiac ultrasound captures detailed images of the cardiovascular system by using sound waves. This procedure does not use ionizing radiation like regular x-rays use and is considered very safe. Echocardiogram testing can identify heart valve abnormalities, cardiac rhythm problems, fluid around the heart, and a number of other heart defects.
When visiting the clinical cardiac care center for your test, prepare to be there for up to an hour. Your cardiac ultrasound will either be performed by a cardiologist or by a cardiac sonographer, or "echo" tech. If the cardiac ultrasound is performed by the cardiologist, you may get your results as soon as your test is over. Conversely, if the test is performed by a technician, it may take a couple of days to get your results because the images have to be sent to the cardiologist to be read.
An ECG is also known as an electrocardiogram. During this test, the technician will strategically place a number of electrodes on your body, which pick up electrical impulses or signals of your heart. Assessing your heart's electrical impulse activity is an excellent way for your doctor to evaluate your cardiovascular status.
The ECG also shows your physician how fast or slow your heart is beating, as well as how strong its contractions are. It also can reveal if your heart is beating in a normal rhythm, or if the heart is beating too fast or too slow.
Tachycardia is when the heart beats too fast. Conversely, bradycardia is the result of the heart beating too slow. If you have tachycardia, your cardiologist may prescribe beta-blockers, which are medications that help slow the heart rate. If you have bradycardia and your heart beats too slow, a pacemaker may be recommended.
To learn more about cardiovascular diagnostic testing, make an appointment with your primary care physician. If you experience chest pain, shortness of breath, or pain radiating down your left arm, seek emergency medical care at the nearest hospital. Contact a cardiac care center for more information.