Getting to the Heart of the Matter: Good tests
Nobody likes tests. It does not matter if it is a math test, a test for a job or a test for a health problem. Nobody likes tests; except doctors.
They do not necessarily enjoy taking them, but they certainly do enjoy scheduling them.
Why? I think the answer is obvious. Tests give doctors answers. They help doctors diagnose and figure out what is going on with different parts of the body.
Cardiologists, or heart doctors, order a variety of tests to ensure a happy, healthy heart.
The most common types of cardiac tests include chest X-rays, echocardiogram, electrocardiogram (EKG or EEG) and exercise stress test.
Each test measures something different, and although these tests are common, they are not the only ones.
The first test most doctors prescribe is a chest X-ray. According to mayoclinic.com, a chest X-ray can show blood vessels, the heart, lungs, ribs and spine. It can also show any fluid around the heart, which suggests heart failure.
A chest X-ray is the simplest test and the fastest one to do.
Doctors also do echocardiograms (echo).
There are different categories of echos, but each is done using an ultrasound that sends high-pitched sound waves through a tool as it picks up the sound waves that bounce off the heart.
This process allows a technician to take pictures that can be seen on a video screen.
A transthoracic echocardiogram is the most common form of echo, according to Web MD.
When having a transthoracic echo, a technician is looking for multiple things. It looks for the cause of abnormal heart sounds, the thickness of the heart’s walls, and it checks how well valves are working, among other things, according to Web MD.
An echo checks out structural abnormalities while an EKG, another type of test, looks at the actual beats. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, an EKG measures how fast the heart beats, the regularity of the beats and the strength of the beats.
An EKG is the best way to see any kind of irregular heartbeat and can help diagnose conditions such as atrial fibrillation or the rarer, Wolf Parkinson White Syndrome.
Another common test is the exercise stress test. During this test, a heart monitor is connected to the chest in a similar fashion to an EKG, and there is a treadmill in the room.
The patient walks on the treadmill as it increases in both speed and incline.
As the test becomes more difficult, the heart must work harder causing the EKG to measure how the heart works under stress.
None of these tests are invasive at all. Each can also be done at nearly any hospital with a decent cardiology section. There should be no need to have any of these tests unless a doctor suspects something with the heart is awry.
For more in depth information though, a simple Google search can produce dozens of links.