cardiac diagnostics

Heart disease often strikes without warning and is the number one killer of both men and women in the Unites States. Heart disease often develops at a young age, silently laying the groundwork for a disabling or fatal heart attack several decades later. The ideal, of course, is to know what's happening inside the heart and blood vessels so that problems can be headed off early. There are numerous tests at OLBH, some simple and others sophisticated, which can do just that.

Noninvasive exams available at the OLBH Cardiology Department include:

  • Cardiac stress testing - Exercise cardiac stress tests involve walking on a treadmill with progressive increases in speed and elevation. Drug-induced cardiac stress tests chemically stimulate the heart to mimic the stress of exercise. During the exam, doctors can determine if the blood supply is reduced in the arteries that supply the heart, a sign that there may be a blockage.

  • Echocardiogram - A diagnostic method to transmit waves into the body using ultrasound. The echoes that come back from the heart's surface are transformed into a video picture showing the size, shape, and movement of the heart.

  • Electrocardiogram - Commonly known as an EKG or an ECG, an electrocardiogram is a graphic illustration of the electrical currents that run through the heart as it pumps.

  • Nuclear cardiology exams - These studies involve the use of nuclear medications and computer images to diagnose heart disease.

  • Transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE) - The most common type of echocardiogram, this test allows for views of the heart obtained by using echoes from different locations on a patient's chest or abdominal wall.

For more information about how OLBH can help determine the extent of heart disease, please speak to your physician. If you do not have a family physician, call the OLBH CareLine at 606-833-CARE (2273) for a physician referral.

echocardiograms - diagnosing heart abnormalities 

When you or a loved one has heart disease, it is important to understand available methods used to help determine your heart’s actual condition, secure your quality of life, and protect yourself from a future heart attack or other debilitating conditions. The OLBH Cardiology Department offers a number of minimally invasive methods to detect the extent of your condition.

An echocardiogram, a test that uses ultrasound waves to examine the heart, is a non-invasive examination that is a safe and painless way to help doctors diagnose a number of abnormalities of the heart. By using echocardiograms in conjunction with stress testing, for example, OLBH physicians can see how well your heart functions during exertion by studying what happens during the test.

The images gained from echocardiograms also can be used to measure the function of the heart and to evaluate the valves of the heart. The test shows the shape and motion of the heart valves. It can reveal if a heart valve is narrowed or leaking and show how severe the problem is. The effectiveness with which the heart pumps blood, as well as whether the heart is pumping at full strength or is weakened, also can be determined by an echocardiogram.

During the test, an ultrasound transducer is moved over the chest to obtain different views of the heart. A thorough exam usually takes from 20 minutes to an hour. Ultrasound waves are transmitted into the chest and the reflection of these waves off the various parts of the heart is analyzed by sophisticated equipment to produce computerized images of the heart and its function.

A major benefit of the echocardiogram is that it gives information about the heart’s structures and blood flow without anything other than sound waves entering the body. The information gained from echocardiograms allows your doctor to make an accurate diagnosis and develop a treatment plan that is best for you.

For more information about echocardiograms in the OLBH Cardiology Department, please speak to your physician. If you do not have a family physician, contact the OLBH CareLine at 606-833-CARE (2273) for a physician referral.

stress testing - screening for heart disease

In many patients, the first symptom of coronary artery disease is a heart attack, with no preceding chest pain as a warning. For this reason, physicians perform screening tests to identify the condition before serious medical events occur. These screenings are particularly important for patients with one or more risk factors for heart disease.

Risk factors for heart disease and coronary artery disease include a family history of heart disease, elevated cholesterol levels, smoking, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, obesity, and diabetes. 

screening tests

An initial screening for coronary artery disease can involve stressing the heart under controlled conditions. These tests enable physicians to determine the severity of blockages in the arteries.

There are two types of stress tests – tests that involve exercising the patient to stress the heart (exercise cardiac stress tests), and those that chemically stimulate the heart to mimic the stress of exercise (physiologic or drug-induced stress testing). Physiologic stress is used for patients who are unable to exercise.

OLBH offers exercise stress tests and stress echocardiograms

The exercise stress test, also known as a stress echocardiogram or stress echo, is performed in the OLBH Cardiology Department and involves walking on a treadmill with progressive increases in speed and elevation, usually at three-minute intervals. As the body works harder during the test, it requires more oxygen, so the heart must pump more blood. During the exam, it can be determined if the blood supply is reduced in the arteries that supply the heart, a sign that there may be a blockage.

during the test

Electrodes (conductive patches) are placed on the chest, arms, and legs to record activity of the heart. A blood pressure cuff is placed on the arm and is inflated every few minutes. Heart rate and blood pressure measurements are taken before exercise starts.

During exercise, an electrocardiogram (EKG) is used to record the activity of the heart and blood pressure readings are taken. The response of the heart to increased exercise is monitored. The test continues until a target heart rate is reached, unless chest pain or an exaggerated rise in blood pressure occurs. Monitoring continues for about 10-15 minutes after exercise stops.

why the test is performed

A stress test is performed to diagnose coronary artery disease; determine causes of chest pain, shortness of breath, or lightheadedness; determine the exercise capacity of the heart; and predict the risk of heart-related conditions such as heart attack. There also may be other reasons for your physician to recommend this test.

Depending on the results of the stress test, additional testing such as a nuclear stress test in the OLBH Cardiology Department, or cardiac catheterization at OLBH, may be recommended.

Speak to your physician for further information about heart-related illnesses. If do not have a family doctor, the OLBH CareLine can refer you to one who meets your needs; simply dial 606-833-CARE (2273) or e-mail

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