Diagnosing Heart Disease

Cardiac Catheterization

During this procedure, we insert a very small tube — a catheter — into a blood vessel through your arm, groin, or neck, and extend it to your heart. Contrast dye injected through the catheter shows how your heart’s blood vessels are working.

A cardiac cath can measure heart muscle and valve function. It can also show if plaque is narrowing or blocking your coronary arteries as a result of coronary artery disease.


Also called an “echo,” this test is checks how the valves and chambers of your heart are working. The test can also reveal the size of the heart and the thickness and movement of the heart wall.

During an echocardiogram, a health care provider — typically a radiographer or sonographer — uses ultrasound to create a moving picture of your heart.  A transducer — a device that looks like a microphone — is placed over the surface of the chest.  It sends out sound waves that bounce off the heart and its structures, then picks up reflected sound waves.  A computer then uses this information to create images of the heart.

A transesophageal echocardiogram is a special type of echocardiogram that is used when more detailed images of the heart are needed.  With this test,  a flexible tube carrying a small transducer is passed down the throat into your esophagus.  This gives more detailed pictures because the heart lies right in front of the esophagus.

Echocardiograms are painless and noninvasive.


Often called an “EKG” or “ECG” for short, an electrocardiogram measures your heart’s electrical activity. It can reveal signs of heart disease and help predict a heart attack or confirm that a heart attack has occurred.

During an EKG, a health care technician places sensors on your chest, arms, and legs. The sensors are connected to an electrocardiogram machine, which creates a three-dimensional map of your heart’s electrical rhythm. You simply lie still while the map is made; EKGs are painless and noninvasive.

Echo Stress Test (Stress Echocardiography)

This test assesses how your heart is functioning, and how blood flows through your vessels during or immediately after exercise on a treadmill or exercise bicycle.

Prior to and during exercise, your electrocardiogram and blood pressure are monitored and ultrasound images are taken of your heart.  This test gives your physician information about how your heart performs, how blood and oxygen are reaching the heart tissue, and how your heart valves are functioning.

Exercise Stress Test

During this test — sometimes called a treadmill test, exercise cardiac stress test, or ECST — sensors are placed on your chest to record your heart as you exercise on a treadmill or stationary bike. Your heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, and electrical activity are monitored and recorded.  We also note any symptoms you may experience to look for indications of coronary artery disease and angina (chest pain caused by a shortage of oxygen reaching the heart muscle).

Nuclear Stress Test (Pharmacological Nuclear Stress Test)

Like an exercise stress test, this is a diagnostic tool that helps our physicians spot signs of heart conditions such as coronary artery disease (CAD).

In order to give us a better view of your cardiovascular system, a provider will deliver a small amount of radioactive dye into a vein. Then a special camera detects the radiation and produces computer images of your heart that show blood flow.  Images are taken while you are at rest, and while you are exercising.

Holter Monitoring or Ambulatory EKG

We use this test to record your heart’s electrical activity throughout the day.  A regular EKG, which shows your heart’s activity at one moment in time, while an ambulatory EKG shows us how your heart functions over a longer period of time and while you’re going about your daily routine.

During the test you wear a Holter or mobile cardiac telemetry (MCT) monitor; these are portable devices with sensors that attach to your skin.