Heart tests

Heart tests are among the many different tools we use to figure out what might be causing your symptoms and the best way to treat your heart condition. 

Below are the different heart tests done at Kingston Health Sciences Centre on a daily basis:

Carotid Dopplers

This is an ultrasound that shows blood flow through the arteries in the neck, no special preparation is required for this test. For more information about ultrasounds, click here

Computed Tomography scan

Computed Tomography (CT) scan, also known as a CAT scan is unlike conventional x-ray images. The images appear as slices, like slices in a loaf of bread. An x-ray technologist, who has had special training in CT scanning, will perform your scan. CT scans help health-care providers assess various heart conditions and plan surgeries and procedures. The images are then read and reported on by a radiologist, who is a doctor with specialized training in computerized tomography. For more information on CT scans, click here

Coronary Angiography

Coronary angiography – which produces an x-ray picture called an angiogram of the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart – is the most common procedure in a group of procedures known as cardiac catheterizations. Cardiac catheterization procedures can be used to diagnose and treat heart and blood vessel conditions and involve a very thin, flexible tube called a catheter inserted in an artery in the wrist or groin and gently guided to the heart. During coronary angiography, once the catheter is in place, a dye is injected to help make your arteries easier to see and help your doctor determine if there are any blockages in your heart.

Chest X-ray (CXR)

A chest x-ray is a picture of the chest that shows your heart, lungs, airway, blood vessels and lymph nodes. A chest x-ray also shows the bones of your spine and chest, including your breastbone, ribs, collarbone, as well as the upper part of your spine. It may be the first test you get if you experience chest pain, a chest injury, or shortness of breath. It helps doctors determine whether you have heart problems, a collapsed lung, cancer, or any other conditions. For more information on x-rays at the Kingston General Hospital site, click here.

Electrocardiogram (ECG)

This is a non-invasive test that records the electrical activity of your heart. You will be asked to lay flat and sticky tabs will be placed across various areas of your chest and attached to a machine. Overall, the ECG takes only minutes to complete. You will need to remove your jewelry and perhaps your shirt, no other preparation is required.

Echocardiogram (ECHO), Transthoracic (TTE), Transesophageal (TEE)

These are ultrasound tests that are used to look at your heart muscle function and heart valves.

In a Transthoracic ECHO, a cold jelly is placed on the surface of your chest then a wand is rubbed across your chest to produce images of your heart. This is a non-invasive test and no special preparation is required.

During the Transesophageal ECHO you will receive some medication to help you relax as a tube is placed into your mouth and down into your throat. This will allow us to see your heart muscle and valves more clearly. You will be asked to not eat before this test. You will need someone to drive you home after it is complete.

Healthcare providers: click here to access referral forms for ECHO testing.

Electrophysiology Studies 

Often performed prior to receiving catheter ablation at the same procedure, an electrophysiology study (EP test or EP study) is a minimally invasive procedure that tests the electrical system of your heart to assess your electrical activity and pathways. The test is used to investigate the cause, location, and best treatment for various abnormal heart rhythms. This type of study is performed by an electrophysiologist using one or multiple catheters placed in your heart through a vein or artery.

Epinephrine or procainamide challenge

To help us determine if you have a heart rhythm problem, also known as an arrhythmia, we may perform an epinephrine or procainamide challenge. This is a test that looks at the electrical system of your heart. For more information on this test, click here

Left Ventricular Function (MUGA)

A Multiple-Gated Acquisition (MUGA) scan looks at the chambers of your heart, especially the function of your left ventricle. A radioactive substance (isotope) is injected into you through an intravenous line (IV), and then you wait for a period of time to ensure the isotope has made its way to your bloodstream. A special camera takes pictures to assess how your blood (containing the isotope) pumps through the heart chambers. You will have ECG stickers placed on your chest and you will be asked to lie still on a small table during the exam.​

Myocardial Perfusion Study (MIBI)

This test looks at the health of your heart arteries and muscle. MIBI is a name for the radioactive tracer given to you through an IV line. You will have two scans as part of this exam, one after the dye is inserted, while you are resting. The second is a few hours after you have exercised. If you are unable to exercise, you may be given medication instead.

Stress Test

You will be asked to exercise on a treadmill or bicycle and at the same time an electrical tracing of your heart will be performed by electrocardiogram (ECG), see above. This test will look for changes in your ECG. No special preparation is required for this test, however, you should wear comfortable shoes.

Stress ECHO 

Similar to the stress test above, however, an ultrasound of your heart is performed to look for abnormalities in your heart's muscle function. An abnormality may indicate a heart problem. If you are not able to exercise for this test, your health-care team may suggest the use of a medication to make your heart act like it is exercising.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a technique that uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images of the organs and tissues within your body. Most MRI machines are large, tube-shaped magnets. MRIs are used to diagnose a wide range of heart conditions such as blocked or narrowed arteries and conditions people are born with or inherit. For more information about MRI, click here