An electrocardiogram (EKG) is a test that looks at the conduction system of your heart. An echocardiogram tells more about your heart's structure. Doctors may also perform stress tests or a heart catheterization.
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What tests are used to tell if I have a heart problem? Dr. Amy Epps: The first and least invasive test is an (EKG) or Electrocardiogram. It's a - the electrodes are placed on your chest, and you can actually look at the conduction system of your heart. It can tell us a lot about how healthy your heart is, how fast or slow your heart's beating at that time, or they are having a lot of skipped beats or extra beats, that could explain your palpitations if those were your symptoms. If you are having chest pain as we are doing the EKG, we can tell very quickly if you are having heart attack just by changes we see on the EKG. We can tell if you had an old heart attack in the past, that changes that we see on the EKG. So it's a very helpful, easy, quick, painless test that we can do right there in the office, that really tells a lot. The second is a little more involved, but equally non-invasive, meaning no risk to you, is an Ultrasound or an Ecocardiogram of the heart. An Ecocardiogram tells us about the heart structure, it shows, we can see the heart beating. It's like taking an Ultrasound of a baby in a pregnant woman, it's the same sort of process where we can see the heart move, we can look at the valve structures, we can see blood flow across the valves, we can see if there is an any abnormalities around the heart or the lungs. We can see if you had prior heart attack by looking at any weakening of the heart muscle. We can see if you are having a current heart attack, if you are having chest pain by evaluating for any heart muscle weakening. So it's a very quick and easy test as well, that's non-invasive, we can do right there in the office. And then some more important test that we do, or equally is important, is our Stress Test. There are a variety of Stress Test that can be done. And the whole goal of that is to sort of recreate a physiologic situation that might bring out your heart disease. The Stress Test should not be done if you are having a heart attack right there, certainly no one is going to put you under stress test right then. But if you are having symptoms that may be, or sound classic for heart disease, or not so typical for heart disease, a Stress Test can tell us a lot of good useful information. We put you on the treadmill, we can see how far you can go, what your exercise tolerance is, what your EKG does and your blood pressure does with exertion and what stress. Whether we are able to reproduce any of your symptoms by exerting you. Then Stress Test can also be combined with the Eco with Ultrasound images, or with nuclear images to take pictures of the heart while you are under stress, and that can give us a lot of valuable information about, whether your blood pressure is the ultimate cause of your symptoms, or whether possibly blockage in the coronary arteries is the ultimate cause of your symptoms. It is an invasive test, in where we go into the coronary arteries back through the femoral artery which is an artery in the groin, and are able to enter that artery through a needle stick, it's not a surgery, and go up the aorta with our catheters. Get right to where the coronaries come off, inject contrast down the coronaries, and then we can tell right then whether you have a blockage in your coronary artery. The good thing about this test is, not only can we tell whether you have a blockage, but we could fix the blockage at the same time, and that's the angioplasty or stenting; if you have heard these terms before. And that's where we pass a balloon and or stent, across that blockage in the coronary artery, expand it, crush that blockage and open up that artery to give blood flow down the artery to that muscle that's otherwise dying off for that time.

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