If you have heart failure, your doctor will want to know how severe your condition is — and what the root cause may be — such as a heart attack, long-standing high blood pressure, a virus, etc. How you respond to therapy is important to know, too. Every patient is different — and your condition can change over time — so regular follow-ups will be part of your care plan. This lets us adjust treatment as needed to be most effective for you.
Your doctor will also consider how your heart condition affects the rest of your body. For example, it’s important to know if your kidneys, or muscles in your arms and legs, are getting enough blood.
Other conditions like obesity or untreated high blood pressure place extra strain on your heart. Addressing these conditions will help improve or stabilize your heart so you can enjoy the best possible quality of life.
Heart Failure Tests
Hear failure is a complex condition and there are many factors for your doctor to consider. Talk to your doctor about your symptoms, and your past medical history. Your doctor will examine to you to listen to your heart and lungs, check your skin for signs of extra fluid and order other tests as needed.
Blood tests tell your doctor about your kidneys, liver, thyroid, blood cell count, electrolytes and blood cholesterol. Your doctor will review past blood test results to see if you need more tests.
Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)
An EKG reads your heart rhythm through electrode patches applied your legs, arms and chest. This can help your doctor diagnose different causes of heart failure.
Echocardiograms use ultrasound to show how your heart valves and chambers are working. This test tells your doctor how much blood your heart pumps out (ejects) and how well your heart is pumping. You may hear this measurement referred to as your ejection fraction or “EF.”
The Emory Advanced Heart Failure Therapy Center uses several kinds of stress tests.
- Exercise stress test (also called treadmill test, regular exercise test or exercise cardiac stress test)
- Exercise perfusion stress test (exercise thallium stress test)
- Stress nuclear perfusion test (nuclear stress test)
- Stress echocardiography (dobutamine stress echocardiogram)
- Cardiopulmonary exercise test
Sleep apnea, a common condition in which a person may experience pauses in breathing five to 30 times per hour or more during sleep, prevents restful sleep and is associated with high blood pressure, arrhythmia, stroke and heart failure.
During a sleep study, a sleep technologist will monitor your body functions in a sleep lab. They can measure brain waves, eye movement, respiration, oxygen level in the blood, snoring or other sounds.
You doctor may use coronary angiogram to:
- Look for narrowed or blocked blood vessels in your heart
- Check your heart’s size
- See how well your heart pumps
- See how well your heart valves work
To do the test, your doctor inserts a catheter (small tube) with a tiny camera into a blood vessel in your arm or leg, then feeds it through that vessel to your heart. X-ray pictures (angiograms) are recorded using digital imaging and/or 35mm film.
Heart PET Scan
Where other imaging tests show structure, positron emission tomography (PET) scans show organ and tissue chemical function. PET helps detect blocked blood vessels in your heart by showing blood flow and metabolism with superior accuracy. The results help your doctor understand the extent of your heart disease and see if blockages need treatment. PET imaging can also help your doctor decide if your heart muscle is weakened or damaged beyond repair.
Cardiac Magnetic Resonance Imaging (Cardiac MRI)
MRI uses a large magnet and radiofrequency waves to produce high quality images of your heart and blood vessels. MRIs give your doctor live, moving images of your beating heart from different angles. The images help your doctor detect congenital (present at birth) heart disease, coronary artery disease and aortic disease.
CT Coronary Angiography (CTA)
CT coronary angiography (CTA) is a noninvasive test that uses X-ray with iodine-based contrast agents (dyes). The Emory Cardiac Imaging Center uses a state-of-the-art, multi-detector CT system. It creates high-resolution images of your heart and great vessels to help your doctor find plaques (build-up) in your coronary arteries.
Chest X-rays help your doctor find problems in the heart, lungs, bones or blood vessels. Your doctor may order chest X-ray for:
- Bad or persistent (ongoing) cough
- Chest pain
- Chest injury
- Coughing up blood
- Shortness of breath