Heart function tests help physicians diagnose and treat problems with the heart. Testing can include imaging and laboratory tests. These include blood tests, physical tests, electrocardiograms, ultrasounds and invasive testing.
Common blood tests are one of the different heart function tests. Enzymes produced by the heart, such as troponin, can be measured to confirm the occurrence of a heart attack. Blood tests can also determine the extent of damage and help with assessing the likelihood of another occurrence. In addition, physicians may use blood tests to help best choose treatment options.
Stress tests are also an option. These heart function tests are typically used to test cardiac function under the stress of exercise, such as walking and running on a treadmill. Stress tests can help rule out heart problems when diagnosing symptoms related to several possible diseases and conditions, such as shortness of breath and fatigue.
Electrocardiograms are used by physicians to track the electrical activity of the heart muscle. The test is non-invasive, and is completed by attaching monitors to the skin. Results obtained can tell physicians if there are any rhythm abnormalities present in the patient. Electrocardiograms are often conducted on patients in the hospital, and in most cases the results are then interpreted by the physician conducting the exam.
Imaging tests provide detailed images of the heart muscle and the surrounding structures, such as the aorta. Examples of imaging tests include ultrasounds and nuclear imaging tests. Ultrasounds can provide clear images of the heart, and physicians can tell how efficient the heart is pumping. In nuclear imaging, radioactive material is used to provide feedback on the proficiency of the heart muscle and supporting structures. The thallium stress test is one example of a nuclear imaging test used in diagnosing heart related disease.
Other common heart function tests which utilize medical imaging include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT). These imaging tests provide details on any blockages that may exist in arteries and veins surrounding the heart. They also provide detailed images on size and any abnormalities that may be present, such as tissue damage.
Physicians may choose to perform an invasive procedure to further diagnose heart trouble and the severity of diseases affecting the heart and blood vessels leading to and from it. This typically requires injecting dye into the coronary artery with the use of a catheter. Common catheter tests include coronary angiography and coronary arteriography. Another type of test, the coronary angioplasty, involves inserting a catheter with a balloon on the end.