This is a nuclear medicine imaging test that can be used to help diagnose and manage heart disease. Patients undergoing a nuclear stress test are first injected with radioactive “tracer” via IV, which may take some time to be sufficiently absorbed by the body before the imaging studies can begin. Next, the patient lies flat on a table while the circular SPECT machine rotates around him or her, taking pictures of the internal structures and recreating them in three dimensional detail on a computer screen.
An echocardiogram is used to look at how blood flows through the heart chambers, heart valves, and blood vessels. The movement of the blood reflects sound waves to a transducer. The ultrasound computer then measures the direction and speed of the blood flowing through your heart and blood vessels. Doppler measurements may be displayed in black and white or in color.
A stress echocardiogram, or stress echo test, is a noninvasive procedure that helps your cardiologist to evaluate how well your heart is functioning when it is forced to beat harder due to physical stress. For purposes of comparison, a resting echocardiogram is done first. Here, a painless transducer device transmits sound waves as it is guided over the chest to produce a visual image of the heart beating on a computer screen. Next, the patient is asked to walk on a treadmill for a period of time during which both their heart rhythm and blood pressure are monitored. As the heart rate is increasing or when it reaches a designated level, further echocardiogram images are taken. This test shows how efficiently your heart is able to pump blood to other parts of your body. In cases where the patient cannot walk on a treadmill, an increased heart rate can be produced via IV medication.
A CT scanner is a narrow, doughnut-shaped machine that uses X-ray equipment to take cross-sectional pictures of your body in order to detect and monitor tumors and other conditions and diseases. The CT scan’s segmented view enables your physician to look at your body from multiple angles and provides additional information that is valuable to your diagnosis and/or treatment. This test is noninvasive and painless, but it does require you to lie still for an extended period of time. A dye may be given through an IV to provide a more defined image of the internal structures.
Carotid ultrasound is a painless diagnostic imaging test that shows the degree of plaque buildup in the arteries leading to the brain, face and neck. The technician glides a hand-held transducer device over the skin on each side of your neck where the carotid arteries are located. The transducer emits ultrasound energy waves that you will neither feel nor hear as they echo off of the structures in the neck and create images on a computer screen. Some carotid ultrasound procedures include Doppler ultrasound, which has the added capability of showing arterial blood flow.
An abdominal aortic aneurysm is a weak spot within one of the blood vessels that carries blood from the heart to other parts of the body. A bulge will occur at this weakened spot, and when this bulge becomes large enough, it is in danger of bursting – with life-threatening consequences. This condition is surprisingly common in adults aged 65 and older, but isn’t usually detectable except with an abdominal ultrasound. Men are more susceptible to developing “AAA” than women, with those aged 60 and higher, smokers and those with high blood pressure also at increased risk. An abdominal aortic aneurysm can be diagnosed and repaired by a skilled vascular surgeon.
A multigated acquisition (MUGA) scan creates video images of the lower chambers of the heart to check whether they are pumping blood properly. It shows any abnormalities in the size of the chambers (called “ventricles”) and in the movement of blood through the heart. Other names for this test include cardiac blood pooling imaging, nuclear heart scan, nuclear ventriculography, and radionuclide ventriculography.