An echocardiogram – also known as an echo – uses sound waves to build up a detailed picture of your heart. It is similar to the ultrasound scan used in pregnancy.
What does an echocardiogram show?
The echo looks at the structure of your heart and the heart valves, and also gives information on the functionality and pumping action of your heart.
It can be a useful test if you have recently had a heart attack or if you have heart failure. It is also used routinely to assess people with heart valve problems or congenital heart disease.
An echo is especially useful for diagnosing heart disease in new-born babies and children as it is painless and easy to do.
An electrocardiogram - or ECG - is a simple and useful test which records the rhythm and electrical activity of your heart.
What happens in an ECG test?
Small sticky patches called electrodes are put on your arms, legs and chest. These are connected by wires to an ECG recording machine which picks up the electrical signals that make your heart beat. This electrical activity is recorded and printed onto paper.
How long will it take?
The whole test takes about five minutes and is completely painless. You will need to lie still though because moving can affect the results.
An angiogram allows your doctor to look inside your coronary arteries (the blood vessels that supply your heart with its own blood supply) to see how well the blood is flowing and to see if there is any narrowing. It's also known as a cardiac catheterisation and depending on your results, the procedure can help your doctor decide what treatment you might need.
What happens during an angiogram?
- The test is done in a cardiac catheter laboratory or ‘cath lab’.
- You can expect the test to last around half an hour, although it can sometimes take longer.
- You will need to lie flat for the procedure.
- You will be asked not to eat or drink anything for a few hours before your procedure.
- You’ll be given a local anaesthetic injection in the wrist or groin. The catheter (a thin, flexible tube) will then be passed into an artery.
- The catheter will be directed through your blood vessels and up to your heart. The doctors will use X-ray to help guide them to the arteries.
- A special dye called contrast will then be passed through the catheter and a series of images will be taken. The dye will show up any narrowed areas or blockages in the artery.
- During your procedure, you’ll be attached to a heart monitor that records your heart rate and rhythm.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a way of creating detailed images of your internal organs, such as your heart and blood vessels.
As MRI machines are not currently available in all hospitals in the UK, you may be referred to a different hospital if you require an MRI scan.
What is a cardiac MRI Scan?
A cardiac MRI scan is a non-invasive test that uses an MRI machine to create magnetic and radio waves which produce clear pictures showing the inside of your heart. Unlike an X-ray, an MRI scan does not use radiation.
Electrophysiological (EP) studies allow your doctor to look at your heart's electrical activity in finer detail.
This test has revolutionised the way we understand and treat fast or abnormal heart rhythms.
Sometimes your doctor will also carry out a catheter ablation - a treatment that can help control or correct an abnormal heart rhythm - during this procedure.