How cardiac and vascular ultrasounds can help detect and control heart disease:
Tests like cardiovascular ultrasound exams can help determine your heart health and prevent heart disease and stroke. Heart ultrasound images give doctors a picture of the overall function and integrity of your heart.
A cardiac ultrasound, or echocardiogram, uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of the heart. These images allow doctors to visualize the chambers, valves, walls and blood vessels. Your doctor may order an echocardiogram for a variety of reasons including:
- To diagnose various heart conditions like valve or myocardial disease and congenital heart disease
- To assess the progression of valve disease over time.
- To detect congenital heart defects before birth (fetal echocardiogram)
A vascular ultrasound is used to evaluate the circulation in the blood vessels in the body. Vascular ultrasounds are conducted very similarly to cardiac ultrasounds but focus on the arteries and veins. This test can help your physician:
- To assess the blood flow to a newly transplanted organ
- To identify the presence, severity and location of the disease
- To detect the narrowing of arteries and severity,
- To examine patients after vascular procedures, like bypass or stent placement
- To identify blockages
- To detect blood clots
A stress echocardiogram is another test to evaluate how well the heart is pumping blood to the rest of your body. The physician will perform a resting echocardiogram and then take images before and immediately after exercise.
These contrasting images will highlight if parts of the heart muscle do not work as well as your heart rate increase. Your doctor will also track your blood pressure and heart rhythm throughout the procedure. The test can assist your physician:
- To diagnose coronary artery disease
- To determine whether your heart is too large
- To determine the effectiveness of a heart treatment
- To detect a decrease in blood flow from narrowing in the coronary arteries
A nuclear stress test produces images of the heart during exercise and at rest. The test shows how well the blood flows into the heart.
During this test, the patient is injected with a small dose of a harmless tracer that is used to evaluate the blood flow to the heart. The patient spends time exercising on a treadmill and then rests. The images of the heart during both times are compared, which can reveal issues in the heart muscle and blood vessels, including coronary artery disease. The test is completed in one day.
Patients unable to walk on a treadmill can take medication to simulate exercise.
Talk to your doctor today if you:
- Have new or worsening chest pain or angina
- Are at high risk for heart disease
- Have recently experienced a heart attack
- Have high blood pressure
- Have valve problems
Cardiovascular ultrasounds and stress tests may be the next step in diagnosing your type of heart disease and preventing heart failure.
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