Heart tests

Heart tests give you and your doctor more information about the condition of your heart and can help you find out which treatment(s) may be best for you. Want to know what to expect during a heart test? Learn about what's involved in different tests to check on your heart.

Ask your health professional about your hearth health

Note: If you are taking medication for your heart, it is important to talk to your doctor, nurse or other health professional about whether you need to stop taking these medications before having a heart test, and how soon you should start taking it again after the test.

Coronary angiography involves a small tube being inserted into an artery and threaded through to coronary arteries near your heart. 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 about what to expect during an angiogram

Blood pressure monitoring involves wearing a blood pressure unit for up to 24 hours. This unit regularly takes your blood pressure and measures your heart rate. Read more about what to expect during blood pressure monitoring (PDF)

Blood tests can help to diagnose a condition or to 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

This test uses sound waves to study the structure of your heart and how the heart and valves are working. A probe sends out and records these sound waves, producing a moving image of your heart on a computer. To read more about what to expect download our echocardiogram (PDF).

Specialised echo tests:

  • A dobutamine stress echocardiogram is used to find out how your heart works when you are exercising. Two scans are done: one when you are resting and one when you are under stress. If you are unable to exercise, you may be given medication (dobutamine) to make your heart react as if you were exercising. Download our dobutamine stress echocardiogram (PDF) to read more.

  • A transoesophageal echocardiogram (TOE) is a special type of echocardiogram where pictures of your heart are taken by inserting a probe into your throat (oesophagus). These pictures are clearer to see than those produced using a probe on your chest (as in a standard echo) because the oesophagus is close to your heart and there is no chest wall in the way. Download our transoesophageal echocardiogram (PDF) to read more.

An electrocardiograph is the most common test for heart conditions. An electrocardiograph 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. Read more about what to expect by downloading our electrocardiograph test (PDF)

Specialised ECG tests:

  • An exercise tolerance test (ETT) involves two ECG scans, one when you are exercising and one when you are resting. Some heart problems only appear when your heart needs to work harder. This test helps to show how your heart copes under stress. Download our exercise tolerance test (PDF) to find out more.

  • A cardiac holter monitoring test is used to identify any heart rhythm problems. For this test you wear a small, portable ECG machine for 24 or 48 hours and during this time your heart rate and rhythm are recorded. Download our cardiac holter monitoring (PDF) to find out more.

  • Event monitoring is used to record your heartbeat when you experience symptoms such as dizziness, black outs, chest pain or palpitations. When you experience symptoms, you will need to press a button to start the recording. Download our event monitoring (PDF) to find out more.

Electrophysiological studies (EPS) are used to measure the electrical activity of your heart. 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.

These tests are used to see how blood flows to the heart. A dye is injected to highlight the blood vessels in your heart. A large machine then creates pictures of your heart by scanning your chest and looking for the dye. This test can also be used before and after exercise to see how the flow of blood to the heart changes with exercise. Read more about what to expect by downloading our myocardial perfusion scan (PDF)

The tilt table test is used if you have episodes of fainting, to find out 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 (IV) needle in your arm so you can be given medication. 

Depending on the results of your heart test(s), you may go on to have treatment like stents or bypass surgery.

Explore heart treatments