Cardiovascular System Tests
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 can also 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 that provided with an x-ray image.
Computed tomography (CT scan for short) provides computer-generated images of the heart, brain, and 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).
Both of these tests can identify and measure calcium buildup in and around the coronary arteries. If you are at high risk for heart disease, your healthcare provider may suggest one of these tests even if you have no symptoms.
An angiography is a test that allows your doctor to look inside your arteries to see if there is any blockage. If there is blockage, the angiography will show how much. For this procedure, a thin, flexible tube is passed through an artery at the top of the leg (groin) or in the arm to reach the arteries that may be blocked. A dye that can be seen with x-ray is injected into the arteries. Your doctor can then see the flow of blood.
One type of angiography is cardiac catheterization, also known as coronary angiography or coronary arteriography.