Diagnosing Heart Conditions

HeartDiagnosis

Many times, cardiac and vascular symptoms are misdiagnosed, or thought to point to other health conditions. When this happens, the disease progresses, putting patients at risk. Our cardiovascular experts are specially trained to recognize and treat heart disease—so you receive the most advanced and effective care you need right away, for a fuller, more active life.

Diagnostic tests like the following help your doctor identify any condition you may have and determine your best course of action and treatment plan:

Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)

Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) records the electrical activity of the heart. The test is used to determine if the heart is beating normally, and can be useful in determining if an implanted heart device is working properly. An EKG can be done as part of a routine health examination, or your doctor may order it if you show symptoms of heart problem, such as chest pain or breathing problems.

During an EKG, several wires with electrodes that attach to the skin will be placed on your chest, arms and legs as you lie flat. A computer creates a graph of the electrical impulses—or heartbeats—so that your doctor can evaluate the rhythm of your heart during the time of the test. 

Holter/Event Monitor

A Holter monitor is a portable device worn continuously for 1-2 days or so that measures and record heart's activity (ECG) continuously. The small, battery-operated device contains wires with electrodes that attach to the skin with medical adhesive; there is no pain and no risk to the wearer. As it measures your heart rhythms, you will be asked to record your activities in a daily log, so that your doctor can look for patterns or triggers for abnormal heartbeats.

Though Event monitors are similar to Holter monitors, there is one important difference: An Event monitor records your heart rhythms only at certain times as you’re wearing it (wearers are able to activate the Event monitor during a heart episode), while a Holter monitor records your heart’s electrical activity the entire time you’re wearing the device.

Stress Tests

Stress tests are used to determine the amount of physical activity your heart can safely handle before developing an irregular heartbeat or loss of blood flow. There are several different kinds of stress tests performed by medical professionals that can be used to detect evidence of coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, and cardiac arrhythmias:

  • Chemically Induced, Dobutamine or Adenosine Stress Test

Some patients are unable to endure physical activity. In these instances, patients are given a medication that has a similar effect on the heart as that of exercise. This allows the cardiologist to safely assess the heart’s response to stress, and no physical activity is required.

  • Treadmill or Exercise Stress Test

This test involves walking on a treadmill at increasing rates, while your EKG, heart rate and blood pressure are measured. This test helps evaluate the function of your heart and valves and may help determine your likelihood for having coronary artery disease.

  • Nuclear Stress Test

A very small amount of radioactive substance, or tracer, is injected into the patient. A special camera that detects the rays produced by the tracer creates detailed pictures of the heart tissue. These images identify areas of the heart that have decreased blood flow. A nuclear stress test may be prescribed in addition to a treadmill stress test.

  • Stress Echocardiogram (Stress Echo)

An echocardiogram, or echo, is an ultrasound image of the heart that details its structure—its size, shape, the motion of the valves and the blood flow. An echocardiogram involves a device called a transducer, which is placed on the chest. The transducer transmits high frequency sound waves that are measured and captured by a special camera that produces detailed images of the heart. This test involves walking on a treadmill for several turns; in between these periods, the stress echo images are taken. It is a painless test that takes between 15-30 minutes and helps diagnose coronary artery disease, heart valve disorders, and enlargement or thickening of the heart muscle (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy).

Transesophageal Echocardiogram

Transesophageal echocardiogram, or TEE, is a test that allows doctors to examine the size and shape of your heart, and determine how well your heart chambers and valves are working. TEE uses ultrasound, or high frequency sound waves, to produce detailed images of your heart, including the muscles, chambers, valves, outer lining (pericardium) and surrounding blood vessels. During the test, a small probe is inserted in your throat and carefully guided into your esophagus. The sound waves produced by the probe create video images of your heart, allowing doctors to detect problems with your heart’s structure or functioning.   

TEE is useful for:

  • Detecting blood clots and abnormal masses
  • Determining the severity of heart valve problems
  • Detecting certain heart diseases
  • Evaluating patients who have suffered a stroke due to a blood clot

 

Location Information

To schedule an appointment, please call 855-546-0830.

MedStar Harbor Hospital
3001 South Hanover St. 
Gruehn Bldg. Suite 216
Baltimore, MD 21225