What Cardiological Tests Can Reveal About Your Heart And Blood Vessels

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There are several types of cardiological tests that can be used to either aid in diagnosing symptoms or give doctors a better idea of cardiovascular function. In some cases, these tests allow doctors to diagnose problems before they turn into life-threatening events.

Abnormal Rhythms

Abnormal heart rhythms can be when your heart does not beat at the right speed or does not beat in a synchronous pattern. An electrocardiogram (ECG) monitors the electrical signals your heart produces and turns them into an image, digital or printed, so doctors can see the pattern. Your heart can beat too slow or fast, which may cause problems pumping blood throughout your body or overwork your heart. Asynchronous beating, such as with arrhythmias, could cause sudden cardiac death or contribute to blood clots. In some cases, the arrhythmia only occurs in the atria or ventricles, causing the upper and lower portion of the heart to beat out of sync with each other.

Heart Attack

Sometimes a recent heart attack might be detected with an ECG, but not all heart attacks cause obvious symptoms. A small heart attack that occurred previously might only be detected during a stress test. During stress testing, an ECG is done while you are exerting yourself, typically while walking on a treadmill. The information during the stress test can be compared with an ECG done at rest. Doctors may notice changes in your ECG that show some parts of your heart are not working properly or getting enough oxygen during physical stress. In cases of a previous, mild heart attack, areas of tissue in the heart may have been damaged and can no longer receive oxygen.

Blocked Or Narrow Vessels

Blockages or narrowing in blood vessels leading to or from the heart might also be detected with a stress test or an angiogram. Your doctors may be suspicious of a blockage during a stress test if blood flow and oxygenation seems fine at rest but becomes low during exertion. An angiogram is the next step to potentially find any blockages in the coronary arteries. During an angiogram, an x-ray is used to take pictures of the heart and blood vessels while a contrast dye is injected so these areas are able to be seen on x-ray. Narrowing or blockages will be seen as areas where the dye does not pass or passes through slowly. Once a blockage is detected, additional procedures can be scheduled to open the blocked blood vessel.

Cardiological testing is an invaluable tool to gain a better understanding of heart function. Prompt evaluation of symptoms and testing can help doctors catch problems when they are easier to treat with medications or surgery.