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Diagnostic Procedures & Treatments

The Division of Cardiology at UI Health uses a variety of diagnostic procedures to evaluate heart performance and function, and to detect any problematic conditions or diseases of the heart.

Cardiac Catheterization

During cardiac catheterization, a thin, hollow tube called a catheter is inserted into a large blood vessel that leads to the heart through the groin, neck, or arm. With catheterization, physicians can perform a number of heart measurements (blood pressure and flow, oxygen content); take X-rays to identify narrow or blocked arteries (coronary angiography, coronary arteriography); detect heart defects; and perform biopsy. Some heart disease treatments, such as coronary angioplasty, also are performed using cardiac catheterization.

Echocardiography/Echocardiogram

Echocardiogram - often referred to as an EKG/ECG, cardiac echo, or simply an echo - shows ultrasound images of the heart. It is one of the most widely used diagnostic tests for the heart because it provides a substantial amount of information, including the size and shape of the heart (internal chamber size quantification), pumping capacity, and the location and extent of any tissue damage. The noninvasive test reveals the condition of the heart and possible causes for murmurs, palpitations, chest pain and shortness of breath.

Stress Echocardiogram/Nuclear Stress Test

A stress echocardiogram, or stress echo, is a procedure that determines how well the heart and blood vessels are working. While the regular echo demonstrates the ability of the heart at rest, the stress echo shows how the heart functions (flow of blood and oxygen) when strained - while exercising. Comparing the two echoes will allow the cardiologist to catch problems that surface only when the heart is under strain. This allows to detect blocked arteries in patients who are experiencing chest pain, shortness of breath or palpitations. During the stress echo test, you will have to exercise on a treadmill or a stationary bike while your blood pressure and heart rhythm is monitored. Patients unable to walk on a treadmill due to disability or lung problems will be given Dobutamine, a drug that that increases the heart rate without exercise.

The nuclear test is done when a patient is unable to exercise and is unable to take Dobutamine because of an arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat). This test allows the patient to use adenosine and can measure blood flow to your heart at rest.

Transesophageal Echocardiography

A transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) is performed with a probe inserted into the esophagus to take higher quality moving pictures of the heart and its blood vessels. TEE can help recognize areas of the heart muscle that aren't contracting well due to poor blood flow or previous injury. Doctors also may use TEE to identify possible risks that could lead to complications during surgery, such as blood clots.

Cardiac MRI

Cardiac MRI is a safe, noninvasive test that creates detailed still and moving pictures of your heart and major blood vessels, so the doctor can evaluate its structure and function. A cardiac MRI helps diagnose and assess many heart conditions and diseases, including cardiac tumors, congenital heart defects, coronary heart disease, heart failure, heart valve problems, inflamed heart conditions, and damage caused by a heart attack.

Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan

CT scans use X-rays to create detailed pictures of the heart and its blood vessels to help detect or diagnose conditions or problems of the heart, including, artery blockage, congenital heart disease, plaque buildup/heart disease risk, tumors, and overall heart function. This test also can be done to see if you have a buildup of calcium in your arteries, called CT angiography.