Cardiovascular System Tests
A chest x-ray provides a picture of the lungs, heart, large arteries, ribs, and the diaphragm.
Some heart problems are easier to diagnose when the heart is working hard and beating quickly. During stress testing, a patient exercises or is given medicine to make the heart work harder and beat quickly while heart tests are performed. An exercise stress test is where your heart, breathing, and blood pressure are monitored while you exercise on a treadmill or a stationary bicycle. An EKG is usually done before, during, and after the stress test.
In addition to an EKG, other heart tests, such as nuclear heart scanning or echocardiography, can also be done at the same time. During nuclear heart scanning, radioactive dye is injected into the bloodstream, and a special camera shows the flow of blood to the heart muscle. If a person is unable to exercise, a medicine can be injected into the bloodstream to make the heart work harder and beat quickly. Nuclear heart scanning or echocardiography is then done.
Two newer tests that are being done with stress testing are magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) scanning of the heart. MRI shows detailed images of the structures and beating of the heart. PET scanning shows blood flow to the heart and areas of damaged heart muscle.
An echocardiogram uses sound waves to create a moving picture of your heart. It provides information about the size and shape of your heart and how well your heart chambers and valves are functioning. Also, the test can identify areas of poor blood flow to the heart, areas of heart muscle that are not contracting normally, and previous injury to the heart muscle caused by poor blood flow. An echocardiogram may be done while the person is at rest or exercising (exercise stress echocardiogram). A stress echocardiogram is usually done to find out if you have decreased blood flow to your heart (coronary artery disease).