An echocardiogram is an exam of the heart using sound waves to create a moving picture of the organ. An echocardiogram provides information about the size and shape of your heart and how well your heart chambers and valves are functioning. The test can also identify:
- Areas of poor blood flow to the heart
- Areas of heart muscle that are not contracting normally
- Previous injury to the heart muscle caused by poor blood flow.
An echocardiogram may be done while the person is at rest or exercising (called an exercise stress echocardiogram). A stress echocardiogram is usually done to determine if you have decreased blood flow to your heart (coronary artery disease).
Nuclear Heart Scan
A nuclear heart scan (also known as a thallium stress test) shows areas of the heart that lack blood flow and are damaged. It also can reveal problems with the heart's pumping action. A small amount of radioactive material is injected into a vein, usually in the arm. A scanning camera positioned over the heart records whether the nuclear material is taken up by the heart muscle (this indicates healthy areas) or not (this indicates damaged areas). The camera also can evaluate how well the heart muscle pumps blood. A nuclear heart scan can be done during both rest and exercise, enhancing the usefulness of its results.
An ankle/brachial index compares the blood pressure in your ankle with the blood pressure in your arm.
An ultrasound is a test that uses sound waves to create a picture. The picture is more detailed than an x-ray image.
A computed tomography, or CT, scan provides computer-generated images of the heart, brain, or other areas of interest. Some specialized types of CT scans can also be used to diagnose early atherosclerosis in the heart before symptoms appear. These include:
- Electron beam computed tomography (EBCT)
- Multidetector computed tomography (MDCT).