Cardiovascular Lab Tests

Your doctor may recommend that you have cardiovascular test to check for a heart problem. These may include:

  • Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG): An electrocardiogram records your heart's electrical activity. It is one of the first tests used to diagnose heart disease. A normal EKG doesn't guarantee that your heart and coronary arteries are normal, so your doctor may want you to have other tests. Many people have EKGs before a surgery to make sure the heart is well enough for surgery.
  • Echocardiogram: An echocardiogram is an ultrasound of the heart and uses sound waves to produce pictures of the heart in motion. This test detects abnormalities of the heart valves, heart muscle and fluid-filled sac surrounding the heart.
  • Transesophageal Echocardiogram: A transesophageal echocardiogram is performed by positioning an ultrasound probe in your esophagus (down your throat) and behind and below your heart. It checks for blood clots in your heart, the extent of heart valve disease and the effectiveness of valve repair or replacement surgery.
  • Stress Testing: Stress testing helps your doctor evaluate your heart at rest and while you exercise on a treadmill. If you cannot exercise on a treadmill for the test, your doctor can give you intravenous medication that mimics the effects of exercise. Stress tests shows how well your heart muscle contracts and if portions of your heart muscle are deprived of blood. You may have a stress test to determine if you're well enough to begin an exercise program.
  • Nuclear Medicine: You may have a nuclear scan of your heart to check for coronary artery disease. Specifically, these scans:

o Detect heart attacks by showing if part of your heart muscle has been damaged.
o Measure your heart's pumping action.
o Study your heart's ability to expand and contract.

For a nuclear scan, you receive an injection of a medication (radioactive isotope) and then have one or two 30-minute scans under a gamma camera. Nuclear scans are often done in conjunction with stress testing.