There are several different tests and investigations used to diagnose heart disease. The tests your doctor chooses for you will depend on your risk of heart disease, your history of heart problems and the symptoms you might have.
To learn more about the most common tests for heart disease choose from the list below.
This is the most common test for heart conditions. It is a simple painless test that takes about 10 minutes. An electrocardiogram machine records your heart's rhythm onto paper through sticky electrodes which are placed on your chest, arms and legs. The recording will show if the heart muscle is damaged or short of oxygen.
Some heart problems only appear when your heart needs to work harder. You may need an Exercise ECG (a continuous ECG) to show how your heart is coping when you are exercising, instead of resting. While you walk on a treadmill, which will slowly get faster and tilt up hill, your heart rhythm and blood pressure will be recorded. This test takes about 10 minutes.
The Holter monitor is used to identify any heart rhythm problems. It is a small, portable, battery powered ECG machine worn at home over a 24-48 hour period. It will record your heart rate and rhythm over this time and you will be asked to keep a diary of what you do and any symptoms that you experience while you are wearing the Holter monitor. At the end of the time period, the monitor needs to be returned to the hospital or clinic so the recorded information can be studied.
This test uses ultra sound (sound waves) to study the structure of your heart and how the heart and valves are working. A probe is passed over your chest and heart which sends out and records these sound waves showing a moving image of your heart on a computer.
A stress echo is performed to see how your heart works while you exercise. An echocardiogram taken while you rest, you then exercise, and then another echo is done while your heart is beating fast or if you are unable to exercise, you are given medication (Dobutamine) via an intravenous (IV) needle in your arm which makes your heart react as if your body was exercising.
A blood sample may be taken to help diagnose a condition or to help monitor someone who has already been diagnosed with a heart condition. Blood tests can also be taken to monitor the effects of medication as well as the levels of minerals in the blood.
A TOE is a special type of echocardiogram. Pictures of your heart are taken by inserting a probe into your throat (oesophagus), these pictures are clearer because the oesophagus is close to your heart and there is no chest wall in the way. The back of your throat will be sprayed with some numbing solution and although you will be awake during the procedure, you will be given some medication to make you feel relaxed and sleepy. You will be able to eat and drink about two hours after the test, your nurse will tell you when you can do this. Occasionally people have a sore throat for 24 hours afterwards.
A small tube (catheter) is inserted into an artery, usually in your groin or arm, and is threaded through to the part of the aorta near your heart, where the coronary arteries start. A special dye is injected through the catheter, into your bloodstream. Using the dye as a highlight, X-ray pictures of the heart and coronary arteries are taken. Read more.
If you have abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias) or palpitations you may need this test. Similar to an angiography, fine tubes (electrode catheters) are fed into a vein and/or artery usually in the groin. They are then gently moved into the heart, where they stimulate the heart and record your heart's electrical activity.
If you have episodes of fainting, a tilt table test is used to investigate if these could be related to your heart. You lie on a special table, which can be angled so you lie down or stand up and you will be attached to a heart and blood pressure monitor which record how your heart rate and blood pressure respond to changes in position. During the test you may have an intravenous needle in your arm so you can be given medication.