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Non-Invasive Cardiac Testing

Cardiac diagnostic tests give cardiologists a comprehensive, detailed picture of a patient’s heart and how it is functioning. These capabilities enable the physician to reach a diagnosis rapidly and accurately, and help determine the most effective course of treatment. Following is an explanation of cardiac tests.

Electrocardiography: Recording Electronic Impulses

In an electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG) the heart’s electrical impulses are recorded. When analyzed, these recordings often give the physician an accurate electrical picture of heart irregularities and disease, particularly concerning heart rate, rhythm, and pre-existing physical problems.

Holter Monitor

A Holter Monitor is a digital recorder device that records the ECG signal of the patient worn over a 12 or 24-hour period. The recording is interpreted to provide graphic representation of the heart’s electrical activity during a typical day. This procedure is normally used to evaluate heartbeat irregularities and other cardiac conditions.

Echocardiography: Seeing with Sound

During an echocardiogram, sound waves produce detailed images of the heart, providing information on the structure and function of the valves and chambers of the heart. Color flow doppler imaging provides information about blood flow within the heart and blood vessels.

A trans-esophageal echocardiogram is performed by passing a narrow tube containing an ultrasound probe into the patient’s esophagus, so the echocardiogram can obtain information from as close to the heart as possible. This method provides an unobstructed view of the heart chambers and valves when finer detail is needed.Echocardiography can also be done in conjunction with exercise testing to assess the heart’s response to physical stress.

Exercise Stress Testing: A Monitored Workout for the Heart

A stress test measures changes in the heart’s activity during exercise. In the presence of a physician, the patient is monitored by a specially-designed ECG machine while walking on a treadmill, following a protocol of increasing speeds and degrees of incline. Analysis of the test results, including the recovery phase, provides data about the patient’s heart function. Special equipment is also available to perform physiologic stress testing for patients with various forms of heart failure.

Nuclear Cardiology: Sophisticated Scanning Cameras Obtaining Images with Computers

  • Cardiolite Stress Testing:
    The patient is injected with a small amount of radioactive material while he or she exercises on the treadmill. In some patients, exercise is replaced by infusion of medications into a vein to simulate the effects of exercise. Immediately after the exercise, images of the blood flow to the heart muscle are produced. A radiologist working with your cardiologist can then determine the presence of narrowed coronary arteries by evaluating the changes in blood flow to the heart muscle as a result of the exercise. Similar studies are used to determine both the need for and results of bypass surgery and coronary angioplasty.
  • Nuclear Ventriculography:
    This precise means of measuring the heart’s function can be done while the patient is at rest or in response to exercise or drug interventions. To perform this procedure, a small amount of radioactive material is injected into a vein in the patient’s arm. These measurements have important implications for patients with coronary artery disease and other cardiac abnormalities.
64-Slice Scanner Eases Detection of Heart Diseaseheart

In 2006, Virtua Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital became the first hospital in the Delaware Valley to install a vital piece of technology that allows cardiologists to detect heart and coronary artery disease without invasive catheterizations. The 64-slice computed tomography scanner, captures three-dimensional images with sharpness and clarity previously only possible through an invasive exam – and it does so at unbelievable speed.It takes the 64-slice scanner only:

  • 5 seconds (less than an easy breathhold) to search for pulmonary emboli;
  • 5 to 8 seconds to evaluate plaque within carotid arteries;
  • 10 seconds for coronary artery imaging, including distal segments and multiple arterial branches;
  • 20 seconds to take images of the entire chest;
  • About 30 seconds to scan the whole body, in search for a blood clot, for example, that has become the source of emboli.

This scanner is as close as you get to having X-ray vision.In just seconds, we can get complete images of a patient’s heart, brain or lungs. We are able to move those images around for a 360-degree view of the organ, blood vessel or tissue, and within a few minutes are able to diagnose heart disease and cancer, without the need for surgery.

The 64-slice scanner is an example of the growing collaboration between cardiology and radiology services. CT scans are painless, fast and relatively risk-free.

Learn more about the 64-slice CT scanner in the Department of Radiology.


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