Testing for Heart
There is no one simple test to see if
someone has heart disease. Some or all of the following
procedures may be needed. These diagnostic procedures are used
to establish heart disease, to determine its extent and severity, and
to rule out other possible causes of the symptoms.
After taking a careful medical history
and doing a physical exam, the doctor may use some tests to see how
advanced the heart disease is. The only certain way to diagnose and
assess the extent of coronary heart disease is coronary angiography
(see below); other tests can indicate a problem but do not show
exactly where it is.
An examination for heart disease may
include the following tests:
- An electrocardiogram
(EKG) is a graphic record of the electrical activity of the heart as
it contracts and rests. Abnormal heartbeats and some areas of
damage, inadequate blood flow, and heart enlargement can be detected
on the records.
- A stress test (also
called a treadmill test or exercise ECG) is used to record the
heartbeat during exercise. This is done because some heart problems
only show up when the heart is working hard. In the test, an
ECG is done before, during, and after exercising on a treadmill;
breathing rate and blood pressure may be measured as well. Exercise
tests are useful but are not completely reliable; false positives
(showing a problem where none exists) and false negatives (showing
no problem when something is wrong) are fairly common.
- Nuclear scanning
is sometimes used to show damaged areas of the heart and expose
problems with the heart's pumping action. A small amount of
radioactive material is injected into a vein, usually in the arm. A
scanning camera records the nuclear material that is taken up by
heart muscle (healthy areas) or not taken up (damaged areas).
- Coronary angiography
(or arteriography) is a test used to explore the coronary arteries.
A fine tube (catheter) is put into an artery of an arm or leg and
passed through the tube into the arteries of the heart. The heart
and blood vessels are then filmed while the heart pumps. The picture
that is seen, called an angiogram or arteriogram, will show problems
such as a blockage caused by atherosclerosis.
Coronary Heart Disease -
Testing for heart