Tests to Help Diagnose Heart Problems

Heart Testing

Heart problems aren’t always easy to identify. Sometimes the symptoms aren’t obvious, or you may not have any symptoms at all. If your doctor thinks you may have heart problems or you are at high risk for heart problems, you may be referred to a Penn Highlands cardiologist for an evaluation. Your cardiologist will ask you about your health history and perform a physical exam. They also may order a heart test, such as an echocardiogram or heart stress test, to help provide a diagnosis.

Our cardiologists have access to advanced diagnostic technology at each of our four Penn Highlands hospitals in Brookville, Clearfield, DuBois, and Elk. All of our testing is performed by registered nurses and certified cardiac sonographers. Test results are read promptly by board-certified Penn Highlands cardiologists, and your results will be shared with you without delay.

Heart Tests Available at Penn Highlands

Penn Highlands cardiologists have access to a complete range of diagnostic technology and procedures to help them identify heart problems. The tests we offer include:

Echocardiogram is an ultrasound of the heart that provides moving pictures and provides information on the structure and function of the heart. Sometimes called a stress echo, it is used to evaluate how well your heart and aortic valves are functioning. It is sometimes confused with electrocardiogram, or EKG, (see below), but the two tests provide different information and are often used together to diagnose heart problems.
Transesophageal echocardiography is a test Penn Highlands cardiologists use to get moving pictures of your heart and its blood vessels. Sometimes called TEE, this test uses cardiac ultrasound to diagnose poor blood flow in the heart, damage from a previous heart attack, blood clots and fluid buildup. During this test, a small flexible tube with a camera will be guided into your esophagus by a doctor so pictures behind the heart can be captured.

Electrocardiogram, also called EKG or ECG, is a simple test that uses electrodes taped to the skin to read and record your heart’s electrical activity, including the speed, strength and rhythm of the beats. Penn Highlands cardiologists use electrocardiograms to check for heart problems, such as heart attack or heart enlargement.

Heart stress testing determines how well the heart performs under physical stress. Your heart doctor may order a stress test to diagnose arrhythmia, angina (chest pain), and other heart problems. The test is performed using an EKG machine. While attached to an EKG, you will walk on a treadmill that starts out very slow and progressively becomes more difficult. A registered nurse will monitor your health and record your heart’s activity while you walk.

Venous insufficiency studies check for weak veins and damaged valves. At Penn Highlands, we use vascular ultrasound to determine if your veins are working properly. During the test, a technician will move a handheld device over the skin on your legs to examine your blood circulation. Veins that are not working properly can lead to blood clots that could travel to other parts of your body and cause a heart attack or stroke.

The tilt table test measures how your blood pressure and heart rate respond to gravity. Your heart doctor may order this test to determine why you sometimes feel faint or lightheaded. During the test, you’ll lie flat on a table. The table will then be tilted to different degrees in an attempt to trigger your symptoms while your heart rate and blood pressure are monitored.

Cardiac MRI shows heart function in real time so your cardiologist can assess tissue damage after a heart attack, look for conditions affecting your heart valves, or spot masses or blot clots inside your heart. This is a highly specialized test that is only available at a few hospitals in Central Pennsylvania. Penn Highlands offers cardiac MRI in our DuBois imaging department.

Take-Home Heart Testing

Sometimes, changes in heart functions may not occur during in-hospital testing. Other tests require data over a long period of time. In both of these cases, your cardiologist may want to use a test that is conducted while you go about your daily routine. Outpatient heart testing provided at Penn Highlands includes:

Holter monitoring measures and records your heart’s activity for a period of 24 to 48 hours while you go about your daily routine. The size of a cell phone, the Holter monitor is a portable device that you wear on a lanyard around your neck with electrodes that attach to the skin. Your heart doctor may order this test if suspected arrythmias or other heart problems didn’t show up on an in-hospital EKG.

Ambulatory blood pressure monitoring is the latest way for your Penn Highlands cardiologist to get the most accurate reading of your blood pressure. For the test, you’ll wear a cuff on your arm for 24 hours while you go about your daily routine. The cuff will take your blood pressure every 20 minutes and record the results.

Event monitoring is another portable test. It is similar to a holter monitor but instead of recording your heart activity continuously, it only records activity when you activate it as you experience symptoms.

If you need a cardiologist to help assess what type of diagnostic heart tests you might need, find one at Penn Highlands Healthcare.

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