A comprehensive explanation about diagnosing and treating heart disease requires four separate articles. The information is crucial for defining heart disease. This one, part 7, section A, discusses diagnoses and many tests typically given.
Diagnosis is the first step to find, treat, and prevent heart disease. Your physician selects what tests you need based on what he/she believes you have. This is a vital tool to help pinpoint your condition and decide your treatment.
Luckily, modern-day medicine provides a huge variety of tests. The methods are divided into two categories: invasive and non-invasive. A proper diagnosis requires starting with blood samples analyses.
Blood tests involve a single needle prick, extracting several vials of blood. They’re categorized as invasive because they break the skin. Among other results, they provide cholesterol and triglycerides levels, cell counts, and other markers indicating you have heart damage and/or disease.
Among the first given, there are a variety of non-invasive tests to detect heart disease. A chest X-ray reveals an image of your heart, lungs, and blood vessels. If one shows your heart is enlarged, that’s an indicator you have some form of cardiac disease.
Most commonly used is the electrocardiogram (a.k.a. EKG and ECG). It collects electrical information about your heart. This allows your physician to detect irregularities in its rhythm, function, and structure.
An echocardiogram is an ultrasound of your chest. Evaluating your heart from different directions, it shows detailed images of its structure, blood flow direction, and function.
A Holter Monitor is a portable device that’s usually continuously worn from 24 to 72 hours. It records a continuous ECG, detecting heart rhythm irregularities that aren’t normally exposed during a regular exam.
Cardiac Computerized Tomography (CT scan, also known as “cat scan”) and MRI images help your physician determine vital information about your heart condition. CT scans are used to investigate heart failure, heart arrhythmias, and abnormal chest x-rays. Furthermore, they usually reveal calcium deposits in your arteries (which lead to heart attacks.)
MRIs also offer imagery diagnostics. They differ from CTs in the physical way the pictures are produced. The “cat scan” uses an x-ray beam while an MRI employs a magnetic field with radio frequencies introduced into it. This creates a symbol the MRI computer uses to produce the picture.
The following four installments are sections B-1, B-2, B-3, and B-4. They highlight more tests and treatments.