An ECG (or EKG) is a graphical recording of your hearts electrical activity. Electrodes are placed on the skin with connecting wires to track heart rate and changes associated with cardiac rhythm disturbances (such as atrial fibrillation), inadequate coronary artery blood flow (such as myocardial ischemia and infarction) and electrolyte disturbances.
An Exercise Stress Test is used to assess how your heart and blood vessels respond to physical exertion. Your ECG, heart rate, blood pressure and physical symptoms will be measured whilst you walk on a treadmill for several minutes. The treadmill begins at a very low speed that is increased every few minutes. It is a surprisingly easy test and is accomplished by most patients, even the elderly. This test takes about 30 minutes.
An Echocardiogram (Echo) is a safe and painless diagnostic test which uses high frequency sound waves (ultrasound) to take moving pictures of the heart. A small transducer is placed on your chest and the test takes about 30 minutes. The sound waves show the heart wall, heart valves and heart chambers and are used to judge the speed, amount and direction of the blood flowing through the heart as well as the blood pressure in the chambers of your heart and lungs. Types of echocardiograms include:
A Stress Echo is a combination of an exercise stress test and an echo, allowing your doctor to gain all the information provided by an exercise stress test, as well as the echo information which will assist in determining how your heart copes with the exercise. If one or more of the blood vessels in the heart is narrowed, the heart may not cope as well with the exercise and the echo will assist your doctor in identifying the effect of any narrowing. Sometimes in patients with heart valve conditions (narrowed or leaking valve), a stress echo is done to assess how effective the heart valve is functioning.
A Dobutamine Stress Echo is used to assess function of heart. This test is performed without exercise as patients who undergo this procedure cannot sufficiently walk on a treadmill. In replacement, a pharmacological stress test is performed using a drug called Dobutamine. This drug is intravenously administered in a drip to gradually increase the heart rate. Echocardiogram images are taken at set period of study to provide information of how the heart is functioning.
A Carotid Doppler is a safe and painless diagnostic test using ultrasound waves to show the carotid arteries in your neck which are the blood vessels that feed the brain. A small transducer is placed on your neck and pictures are taken to see if there is any plaque build-up in these arteries. This simple test takes about 30 minutes.
A Holter Monitor is a small recorder which you carry on your waist belt or in a pocket. It will detect and record continuously your heartbeats for a period of time (usually around a 24 hour period) while you carry on doing what you would usually do (work, eat, exercise, sleep etc). It is really a continuous ECG recording which then can be correlated with symptoms of dizziness, palpitations chest pain etc.
Ambulatory Blood Pressure monitoring is used to measure blood pressure automatically and continuously for 24 hours (usually every 20 minutes during day time and every 60 minutes at night). It provides more accurate information for diagnostic and treatment purposes.