When a doctor informs a patient that they’ll need to have any form of scan or investigation of the heart, it can be a worrying thing to hear. With the heart being such a complex organ, a patient could need to be checked for any number of reasons. Someone with an irregular heartbeat will need to be looked at in an entirely different manner than someone with chest pain.

Understanding how the heart is examined and having a general knowledge of what doctors are looking for in different tests can help put someone at ease. In this short article, we’ll be looking at the symptoms that doctors take notice of, how potential heart problems are investigated, and what each test involves.

What symptoms would make a doctor recommend tests are carried out?

A doctor may recommend heart tests if a patient notifies them of chest pain, heart palpitations, blackouts, fainting, lightheadedness, and breathlessness.

Should someone getting a heart test expect surgery?

No. Most methods, which we’ll list below, don’t require surgery. In fact, most heart tests don’t require any form of invasive or downtime for a patient, unless it’s a stress test which a patient will need to recover from (as it is a form of intense exercise)/.

How are potential heart problems investigated?

There is a slew of ways to look at the heart. Doctors have to take into account the type of problem they want to address, the location of the issue, and what method works best.

Some of the most common investigative tests include:

  • Non-invasive tests
  • Stress tests
  • Complex imaging exams
  • Invasive investigations

What’s an example of a non-invasive heart test?

Non-investigative heart tests aim to check the heart without an intrusion. Standard tests you’ll have heard of include echocardiograms, ECGs, carotid ultrasounds, and blood pressure monitoring.

What’s an example of a stress test on the heart?

Stress tests are used when a doctor wants to get a clear idea of what a patient’s heart is doing when they feel symptoms come on while being active. Essentially, they are tricking the heart into being active to see what signs are easy to identify. Standard tests to stress the heart include stress echocardiograms, cardiopulmonary exercise testing (usually on a treadmill or exercise bike) and myocardial perfusion scanning.

What’s an example of a complex imaging heart test?

Complex heart tests are usually carried out when a doctor wants to build a complete 3D image of the heart, mainly to pick up on smaller/ complex issues that faster tests can’t provide. Common tests used as part of complex imaging include CT and MRI Scans.

What’s an example of an invasive heart test?

Invasive heart tests are carried out when a doctor knows other methods won’t provide accurate results. Standard invasive tests include Transoesophageal Echocardiograms, implant devices, and invasive coronary angiography. Invasive tests are quite uncommon but provide very precise test results which help inform diagnostic plans going forward.

Get in-depth information on heart investigations

If you’re interested in reading more on these investigative types, I recommend visiting https://onewelbeck.com/cardiology. They have dedicated pages on each of the treatment mentioned in this post, as well as information on common symptoms of heart problems like chest pain, fainting and palpitations. 

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