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Understanding the Basics of Cardiology Tests

Dec 19, 2019
Cardiologist performing EKG on male patient

Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death among Americans, with stroke not far behind as the fifth leading cause of death. As a result, cardiology continues to be a critical medical discipline that can provide lifesaving care through a variety of avenues to those who face heart disease or stroke. Many people seek preemptive cardiology treatment to head off the effects of genetics and prevent cardiovascular emergencies before they occur. For others, timely medical attention from skilled cardiologists can mean survival in the event of an emergency cardiovascular event.

One of the key pillars of modern cardiovascular care is diagnostics, and in no other field of medicine is the full power of technology brought to bear for the benefit of the patient than in the field of cardiology. There is a battery of both simple and advanced diagnostic tests that cardiologists use to not only identify whether a patient has cardiovascular issues, but also to pinpoint them and provide a glimpse of the potential treatment options. Keep reading to learn more about some of the diagnostic tests that cardiology services in Suffolk County, NY, use to identify and treat cardiovascular issues in patients.

EKG

One of the more common tests performed on those suspected of having cardiovascular problems is the EKG, which is the shortened name for the electrocardiogram. It’s a brief test that only takes about 5 minutes to perform, but it can detect critical issues regarding the electrical activity of the heart. During the test, several stickers attached to wires are attached to the patient’s chest. Those stickers monitor electrical activity and are used to detect the rate and rhythm of the heart, evidence of prior heart attacks, and evidence of heart abnormalities. The device processes the information and prints it out in the form of an electrocardiogram.

Echocardiogram

An echocardiogram can sometimes be confused with the electrocardiogram because of the similarities in the name, but they represent two different types of diagnostic tests. The echocardiogram, also known as an echo or cardiac ultrasound, is more like a sonogram performed during pregnancy than an EKG. A sonogram technician places a gel on the chest and uses an ultrasound probe to create a detailed image of the beating heart and surrounding arteries to determine rhythm and blood flow. It can take up to an hour, but it provides detailed results that include the size and pumping action of the ventricles, narrowing of arteries around the heart, rate of blood flow, valve leaks, congenital heart defects, abnormal pressure in the heart chambers, or the presence of fluid around the heart.

Heart stress test

Stress Test

While the two tests above are passive in that the patient does nothing but remain still, a stress test is designed to place the heart under the stress of aerobic activity to determine its function. During a stress test, an EKG is attached to the patient while the patient performs cardiovascular exercise such as walking and running on a treadmill. The test can help identify blockages in and around the heart, which is indicated by poor blood flow to portions of the heart during rigorous exercise. It also measures the active heart rate and blood pressure and can provide an accurate assessment of a patient’s fitness relative to others in the same age range.

If you seek preemptive or emergency cardiovascular care, you may undergo one or more of these tests as your cardiologist attempts to diagnose your condition or potential problems. Thanks to the presence of these tests, you can receive the cardiological care you need in a timely way, which could potentially save your life. To learn more about cardiology diagnostic testing, contact Peconic Bay Medical Center at (631) 548-6000.