Cardiology Diagnostic Tests and Procedures

Your cardiologist or surgeon may order one of the following tests for diagnosis of a problem and determine the right medical and/or surgical options for you.

Angiography / Angiogram

Spine angiography

This is an exam where a special dye is injected into the bloodstream to view the flow of blood through the blood vessels in the body. The dye illuminates in an x-ray picture and can detect weakened areas, blockages or tears in the blood vessel wall.

Carotid Doppler

Woman laying down receiving a carotid doppler diagnostic test

This is an exam that determines the blood flow through the carotid arteries using ultrasound waves. The carotid arteries bring blood from the heart to the brain. Blockage of these arteries may require additional procedures (endarterectomy) before a heart or other surgeries can be offered.


Patient receiving an echo cardiogram diagnostic test

This is a test that uses sound waves to create moving pictures of the heart. These images are used to diagnose problems with heart valve function, heart chamber sizes and movement, blood flow and to detect abnormal masses and blood clots.

There are several types of echos that can be performed. The most common is a transthoracic, or an echo that is done with a scanner on the chest wall. There is also a transesophogeal echo that is done with sedation as a scope is placed in the esophagus to obtain pictures of the heart. The last type of echo is a stress echo and is performed while “stress” is placed on the heart by either exercise or medication that is injected into the bloodstream.

Coronary Angiography

Diagram of a human heart balloon angioplasty

This procedure is performed by a cardiologist to assess the function of the heart valves and blood flow to the arteries in the heart. A catheter is placed into a blood vessel either in the groin or the arm and then advanced to the heart. X-ray pictures are taken while a special dye is injected into the heart from the catheter.

Many times if the physician sees a blocked artery in the heart, he/she can open the blocked vessel with a balloon (angioplasty) and place a stent to keep it open.

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Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

MRI machine

A procedure which uses magnetic radio waves to create detailed pictures of the structures inside the body.

Computed Axial Tomography Scan (CAT Scan)

Women going into a cat scan machine

A CAT scan takes a series of detailed x-rays in order to examine the internal structures of the body. A surgeon will use the exam to identify problems with the heart, large blood vessels of the body, lungs and organs in the chest and abdomen.


Old man receiving an ultrasound diagnostic test by an older female nurse

Ultrasound Images of structures inside the body made with high-frequency sound waves. These tests are used to visualize fluid, blood flow, function and size organs, abnormal structures, and many other things inside the body.

Stress Test

Man on a treadmill completing a heart stress test

A stress test, also called an exercise stress test, shows how your heart works during physical activity. Because exercise makes your heart pump harder and faster, an exercise stress test can reveal problems with blood flow within your heart. A stress test usually involves walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike your heart rhythm, blood pressure and breathing are monitored. Or you’ll receive a drug that mimics the effects of exercise. Your doctor may recommend a stress test if you have signs or symptoms of coronary artery disease or an irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia). The test may also guide treatment decisions, measure the effectiveness of treatment or determine the severity if you’ve already been diagnosed with a heart condition. Your doctor may recommend a test with imaging, such as a nuclear stress test or echocardiographic stress test, if an exercise stress test doesn’t pinpoint the cause of your symptoms.