STUDIES WE INTERPRET
An echocardiogram, or echocardiography, is an ultrasound exam that utilizes sound waves to capture videos of the heart for the diagnosis or monitoring of heart disease. An echo determines heart motion, the thickness of the heart’s walls and heart valve function. This study also measures ejection fraction (EF), or the percentage of blood that leaves the heart when it contracts. In addition, it determines the potential narrowing (stenosis) of a heart valve or a leaking (regurgitation) valve.
Stress Echocardiogram (Echo)
The purpose of the stress echo is to evaluate the heart during physical activity such as treadmill or stationary bike exercise. This study is also called an echocardiography stress test. The stress echo examines and measures the same areas as an echo but does so after a patient has performed physical activity. During this test, patients maintain physical activity until they reach their target heart rate or experience symptoms. The results of a stress echo are compared to a baseline echocardiogram.
The two carotid arteries on the sides of the neck deliver blood from the heart to the brain. This test utilizes sound waves to determine if carotid arteries are blocked/narrowed, which is called stenosis. Carotid arteries which are narrowed, due to plaque build-up, cause an increased risk of stroke. The carotid ultrasound exam is administered by a technician who uses a transducer to generate images of the carotid arteries.
Venous ultrasound is generally administered on leg veins to determine the presence of blood clots or deep vein thrombosis (DVT). As part of this process, a duplex ultrasound captures vein images. Whereas Doppler ultrasound analyzes blood flow by noting the change in frequency of sound waves. Venous ultrasound is also utilized to identify tumors and the narrowing (stenosis) of blood vessels
Computed Tomography Angiography (CTA)
A computed tomography angiography or CT angiography utilizes a combination of CT technology and contrast material to gather 3D images of the heart and blood vessels. This test assists in diagnosing blood vessel function and helps physicians determine if artery walls contain plaque. CT studies utilize specialized x-ray equipment that take numerous cross-sectional images of a specific area. CTA exams are utilized to detect aneurysms, narrowing blood vessels and blood clots.
A cardiac nuclear scan, often using a myocardial perfusion technique, is utilized to ascertain if certain areas of the heart are receiving inadequate blood flow and determine where the heart has suffered damage. These tests are very helpful in diagnosing and treating various heart conditions. During a nuclear imaging test, a patient’s heart is placed under stress either through exercise or by using medication. As part of this process, a very small amount of radioactive material is injected into the patient and a gamma camera is used to take detailed images of the heart.
Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)
This test is used to detect signs of heart disease by recording electrical activity of the heart. During an ECG, assessments are made of heart rhythm, blood flow and the size of the heart muscle. To perform this study a technician attaches small electrodes to a patient’s chest, arms and legs. An electrocardiogram is often a standard part of a patient’s annual physical. Furthermore, this study can assist in diagnosing a heart attack.
A Holter monitor is a portable device that records a continuous ECG for 24 to 48 hours or longer. This is considered an ambulatory electrocardiogram (ECG) because patients are able to perform their normal daily activities. The benefit of utilizing a Holter monitor is that the heart can be monitored over a longer period instead of at a single point in time as is the case with an ECG. Because cardiac symptoms occur intermittently, a Holter monitor can aid in the diagnostic process.