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Cardiology

Cardiology is a medical study that deals with structure, functions and disorders of the heart and blood vessels. Cardiologists also help you learn about your risk factors in order to improve the measures you can take for better heart health. Cardiologists also focus on diagnosis, medical management and prevention of cardiovascular diseases.

Conditions commonly seen by cardiologists include:

  • Aortic aneurysm
  • Aortic valve disease
  • Arteriosclerosis
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Endocarditis
  • Fainting
  • High cholesterol
  • Hypertension
  • Myocardial infarction
  • Myocarditis
  • Peripheral vascular disease
  • Pulmonary edema
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Stroke and TIA
  • Tachycardia and Bradycardia

Diagnostic services done by cardiologists include:

  • Echocardiogram - a sound wave picture to look at the structure and function of the heart
  • Exercise test - a study to measure your heart's performance and limitations.
  • EKG - an interpretation of the electrical activity of the heart over time captured and externally recorded by skin electrodes
  • ABI - ankle brachial index test is a simple reliable means for diagnosing peripheral artery disease (PAD)
  • Duplex Doppler - a test that uses reflected sound waves to help doctors evaluate blood flow through the major arteries and veins of the arms, legs, and neck
  • Physical exam-or clinical examination is the process by which a doctor investigates the body of a patient for signs of disease
  • Blood tests - are used to determine physiological and biochemical states, such as disease, mineral content, drug effectiveness, and organ function. They are also used in drug tests.
  • Stress tests - are used to determine the amount of stress that your heart can manage before developing either an abnormal rhythm or evidence of ischemia (not enough blood flow to the heart muscle).

Stress Test

A stress test is a common diagnostic technique used to determine the amount of stress the heart can manage before developing abnormalities such as arrhythmia or ischemia. Stress tests are performed through a series of exercise activities, during which your heart rate, breathing and blood pressure are monitored.

A stress test may be used for several different reasons, particularly if you are experiencing symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat or fluttering in the chest. The test can help diagnose coronary artery disease or arrhythmia, as well as:

  • Identify effects of a recent heart attack
  • Determine effectiveness of heart medications
  • Help develop a safe exercise program
  • Determine the cause of a lack of blood flow

During the stress test, electrodes are attached to the skin to record EKG results as you undergo increased levels of exertion while using a treadmill or stationery bicycle. Although a stress test is not always accurate and can produce "false positives" when diagnosing coronary artery disease, it is often a valuable tool in monitoring the heart during physical activity. 

Holter Monitoring

Holter or event monitoring is a tracing technique used for patients whose heart conditions cannot be properly diagnosed through an EKG or other typical tests. These medical devices record the electrical activity of the heart and are often used to diagnose arrhythmias or myocardial ischemia, conditions that may or may not cause symptoms.

Since an EKG only lasts for a few minutes, it may not detect any heart abnormalities if they are not present at that time.  The Holter monitor is worn for 24 to 48 hours and records the heart's activity throughout that time. This helps to detect arrhythmias that may only occur at certain times, such as after physical exertion. 

There is no risk involved in using a Holter monitor. Although some conditions still may not be diagnosed with this device, it is often helpful in identifying the cause of heart rhythm problems.

Doppler Ultrasound

A Doppler ultrasound is a noninvasive imaging test used to evaluate blood flow through the major passageways in the arms, legs and neck. This technology turns sound waves into images, allowing doctors to identify conditions such as blood clots, valve defects, blocked or narrowed arteries and varicose veins. 

The ultrasound procedure can be performed in your doctor's office and usually takes 30 to 60 minutes. Special preparations are not usually needed and no discomfort is experienced. The resulting images can be viewed by the doctor and patient during the test, and can be further analyzed for accurate results later on. 

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