Diagnostic Tests

Echocardiography (echo) Procedure

Echocardiography ('Echo')

Purpose: This is a painless scan which uses ultrasound waves to create moving images of the heart chambers, valves, walls and blood vessels attached to the heart. This allows for doctors to examine the heart structure and functionality such as pumping of the heart muscle and opening and closing of valves.

Procedure: A transducer is applied to the skin over the chest area, producing sound waves that ‘echo’ back and are displayed as images on a monitor. The scan takes about 30 minutes.

View an animated illustration of an echocardiogram here

Cardiac Stress Test

Also known as: Treadmill Exercise Test (TMX), Treadmill Test or Stress ECG

Purpose: A cardiac stress test is done to diagnose potential heart-related causes of complaints like chest pain, shortness of breath or light-headedness. This test observes and measures the heart’s response to different levels of exertion during exercise.

Procedure: The patient is hooked up to various monitoring devices and is required to walk and/or run on a treadmill as the speed and angle of inclination are gradually increased.

Learn more about cardiac stress tests here

Cardiac exercise stress testing
Heart CT scan

Cardiac CT Coronary Angiogram

Also known as: Multi-slice CT Coronary Angiography

Purpose: This non-invasive imaging procedure detects problems in the important blood vessels that supply blood to the heart muscles. It is chiefly used to diagnose the existence of coronary artery disease, also known as atherosclerosis, which is a narrowing or blockage of the arteries due to the presence of fatty or calcium deposits.

Procedure: A dye is injected into the patient’s arm through intraveneous (IV) drip, allowing arteries to be visible on X-ray. Electrodes are placed on the patient’s chest to monitor heart rate. A CT scanner will then capture cross-sectional images of the heart for further analysis.

Coronary Angiogram (Catheter Test)

Purpose: Similar to the Cardiac CT coronary angiogram, this test detects problems in the coronary arteries.

Procedure: A thin tube (catheter) is inserted into an artery in the patient’s arm or leg (under local anesthetic) and threaded up to the heart. A dye is injected through the catheter, allowing arteries to be visible on X-ray. This procedure is generally painless with quick recovery rates and low risk of complications. If needed, a Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI) can be carried out in the same session using the same catheter.

Watch a video about coronary angiography here

Cardiac Catheterization Procedure
Implantable Loop Recorder - Heart Monitoring Device

Implantable Loop Recorder (ILR)

Purpose: To detect and record abnormal heart rhythm that occurs infrequently. This test can also be used to exclude heart rhythm abnormality as the cause of fainting spells.

Procedure: A small device (smaller than a USB thumb drive) with battery longevity of more than 18 months is inserted beneath the skin on the chest under local anesthesia. It can automatically record abnormal heart rhythm. In addition, it can also be activated by the patient or carer when symptom occurs. The information can then be downloaded in clinic or transmitted through a remote monitoring device via telco.

Cardiac MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)

Purpose: This non-invasive MRI test uses a magnetic field and radio frequency pulses to produce detailed pictures of the heart, allowing your doctor to detect or monitor existing cardiac disease.

Procedure: Electrodes are placed on the patient’s chest to monitor heart rate. The patient lies still as the MRI scanner captures the cardiac images. This is a painless test which takes around 30 to 40 minutes with no radiation involved.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of the Heart
Carotid Artery Ultrasound

Carotid Ultrasound

Purpose: This is a painless scan which uses ultrasound to create pictures of the large blood vessels known as ‘carotid arteries’ in the neck. It allows for early detection of blockages due to a build-up of fat, cholesterol, calcium and other substances in the blood, following which, lifestyle changes and medication (if needed) can be started early.

Procedure: A transducer is applied to the skin over the neck, producing sound waves that ‘echo’ back and are displayed as images on a monitor. The scan takes about 15 minutes.

Calcium Scoring CT

Also known as: Cardiac CT for Calcium Scoring, Coronary Calcium Scoring

Purpose: This is a non-invasive imaging procedure capable of observing calcium build-up or calcified ‘plaque’ in the coronary arteries. It is used to evaluate the patient’s risk for future coronary artery disease.

Procedure: Electrodes are placed on the patient’s chest to monitor heart rate. A CT scanner will then capture cross-sectional images of the heart for further analysis. No dye is injected into the patient during this procedure.

Cardiac CT for Calcium Scoring
Ambulatory Electrocardiographic (ECG) Monitoring

Ambulatory Electrocardiogram (ECG)

Purpose: This test is useful in detecting transient heart abnormalities which may not be picked up during a regular ECG. It may be conducted for patients who experience heart palpitations, giddiness or fainting spells.

 

Procedure: The patient’s ECG is continuously monitored for 24 to 48 hours as they go about their daily activities, and the signals are recorded on a portable device worn by the patient during this period. The electrode patches, wires and portable device are secured onto the patient’s body to be worn for the duration of monitoring.

24-hour Ambulatory Blood Pressure Monitoring (ABP)

Purpose: This test enables doctors to clearly understand how a patient’s blood pressure changes throughout the day.

Procedure: The patient’s blood pressure readings are taken at regular intervals for 24 hours as they go about their daily activities. The cuff and portable machine are worn for the duration of monitoring.

24-hour ambulatory blood pressure monitoring (ABPM)