The Bon Secours Heart Team offers the latest in imaging and diagnostic technology to provide each patient a rapid and accurate diagnosis of heart or vascular disease.
An echocardiogram is a noninvasive, risk-free test that uses ultrasound waves to assess cardiac structure and mobility, particularly used to assess valve function. During the test, a small transducer is held against the chest. The transducer sends ultrasound waves that bounce off parts of the heart. A computer uses the information coming from the transducer to make an image of the heart. The image is displayed on a monitor and gives doctors information about the heart, such as:
- Size of the heart – It measures the size of the heart chambers, thickness of the heart muscle, and any defects.
- Pumping strength – It determines whether the heart is pumping at full strength or is weakened.
- Valve problems – It evaluates if a valve is narrowed or leaking and shows the severity of the valve problem.
- Other uses – Echo may be used to detect the presence of fluid around the heart, blood clots or masses inside the heart, and abnormal holes between the heart chambers. Sometimes, the echo is combined with an exercise or stress test to see how well the heart pumps when it is accelerated.
An electrocardiogram is a painless, noninvasive test that allows the doctor to see the electrical impulses of your heart. An ECG can be done in a resting state or an active state. During the test, a technician will place approximately 10 electrode patches on your arms, legs and chest. The electrode patches are hooked to an electrocardiography machine, which displays the electrical activity of your heart and provides the following information:
- Heart attack – EKGs show whether you are currently having a heart attack or have had one in the past, and can help differentiate between chest pain (angina) and a heart attack.
- Heart rate and rhythm – EKGs show how fast or slow your heart is beating, and if the beats are regular or irregular.
- Heart structure – EKGs indicate the size and configuration of the heart and any possible defects.
A stress test uses electrocardiography, echocardiography, and/or nuclear imaging to monitor and assess the heart under stress. A stress test evaluates the heart’s function, mainly the left ventricle (main pumping chamber) when the heart is under stress. Normally, all areas of the heart muscle pump more vigorously during exercise. If an area of the heart muscle does not pump as it should with exercise, it is often an indication that it is not receiving enough blood because of a blocked or narrowed artery. A stress test can show areas of the heart that do not receive an adequate blood supply. However, it does not provide images of the actual coronary arteries. This test can:
- Evaluate the risk for coronary artery disease
- Determine if the symptoms (i.e., chest pain or pressure, shortness of breath, unexplained fatigue, palpitations, lightheadedness, etc.) are caused by a blockage to the heart or other heart conditions
- Detect heart problems that may not be present at rest
- Evaluate cardiac clearance before surgery or other procedure
- Determine an appropriate rehabilitation program following a balloon angioplasty or bypass surgery