The diagnostic tests in cardiology are methods of identifying heart conditions associated with healthy vs. unhealthy, pathologic, heart function.
Auscultation employs a stethoscope to more easily hear various normal and abnormal sounds, such as normal heart beat sounds and the usual heart beat sound changes associated with breathing versus heart murmurs.
A variety of blood tests are available for analyzing cholesterol transport behavior, HDL, LDL, triglycerides, lipoprotein little a , homocysteine, C-reactive protein, myoglobin, creatine kinase, troponin, brain-type natriuretic peptide , etc. to assess the evolution of coronary artery disease and evidence of existing damage. A great many more physiologic markers related to atherosclerosis and heart function are used and being developed and evaluated in research.
Electrocardiography (ECG/EKG) monitors electrical activity of the heart, primarily as recorded from the skin surface. A 12 lead recording, 6 for the front plane and 6 for the lower chest crossectional plane, is the most commonly used form.
A Holter monitor records a continuous EKG rhythm pattern (rarely a full EKG) for 24 hours or more. These monitors are used for suspected frequent rhythm abnormalities, especially ones the wearer may not recognize by symptoms. They are more expensive than event monitors.
An Event monitor records short term EKG rhythm patterns, generally storing the last 2 to 5 minutes, adding in new & discarding old data, for 1 to 2 weeks or more. There are several different types with different capabilities. When the wearer presses a button on the monitor, it quits discarding old and continues recording for a short additional period. The wearer then plays the recording, via a standard phone connection, to a center with compatible receiving and rhythm printing equipment, after which the monitor is ready to record again. These monitors are used for suspected infrequent rhythm abnormalities, especially ones the wearer does recognize by symptoms. They are less expensive than Holter monitors.
Cardiac stress testing
Cardiac stress testing is used to determine to assess cardiac function and to disclose evidence of exertion-related cardiac hypoxia. Radionuclide testing using thallium or technetium can be used to demonstrate areas of perfusion abnormalities.
Coronary catheterization uses pressure monitoring and blood sampling through a catheter inserted into the heart through blood vessels in the leg to determine the functioning of the heart, and, following injections of radiocontrast dye , uses X-ray fluoroscopy , typically at 30 fps, to visualize the position and size of blood of within the heart chambers and arteries. Coronary angiography is used to determine the patency and configuration of the coronary artery lumens.
Echocardiography uses ultrasonic waves for continuous heart chamber and blood movement visualization.
Intravascular ultrasound, an imaging methodology using specially designed, long, thin, complex manufactured catheters attached to computerized ultrasound equipment to visualize the lumen and the interior wall of blood vessels.
Positron emission tomography
Positron emission tomography, an imaging methodology for positron emitting radioisotopes. PET enables visual image analysis of multiple different metabolic chemical processes and is thus one of the most flexible imaging technologies. Cardiology uses are growing very slowly due to technical and relative cost difficulties. Most uses are for research, not clinical purposes. Appropriate radioisotopes of elements within chemical compounds of the metabolic pathway being examined are used to make the location of the chemical compounds of interest visible in a PET scanner constructed image.
Computed axial tomography
Computed axial tomography, an imaging methodology using a ring-shaped machine with an X-Ray source spinning around the circular path so as to bathe the inner circle with a uniform and known X-Ray density. High sensitivity X-Ray detectors are kept positioned opposite the X-Ray source around the ring. Variations in the intensity of the received X-Rays, as sensed by the detectors, reflect the relative radiodensity variations of objects within the circle. A high speed computer calculates a cross-sectional, tomographic, 2-dimensional image reflecting the relative anatomic radiodensity of structure within the circle and are best viewed on a monitor. They are also printed on film (though with significant loss of information). If the object being scanned is moved smoothly through the ring as the process continues, then a series of spiraling tomographic data is generated which can be used to compute a 3-dimensional image, viewable on a monitor. Thus this technique is commonly called spiral CT . Cardiology uses are growing. The principle difficulty with current implementations, for Cardiology uses, is the difficulty of imaging the ever moving heart structures. Electron beam tomography (EBT), provides much faster tomographic imaging; spiral CT tends to have better image quality but rotates too slowly, especially for smaller, more rapidly moving structures, such as the mid-section of the right coronary artery.
Magnetic resonance imaging
Magnetic resonance imaging (originally called nuclear magnetic resonance imaging), an imaging methodology based on aligning the spin axis of nuclei within molecules of the object being visualized using both powerful superconducting magnets and radio frequency signals and detectors. Cardiology uses are growing, especially since MRI differentiates soft tissues better than CT. The principle difficulty with current implementations, for Cardiology uses, is the difficulty of imaging the ever moving heart structures, more so than with CT because MRI is much slower.