Heart tests can help your doctor find out if you are at risk for a
heart problem, if you have a heart problem, and what treatment you need.
are many heart tests. Most are noninvasive, which means that your doctor does not
insert a device into your body for the test. Many of the tests provide still or moving
images of your heart and blood vessels.
These tests help doctors find out what's
causing new symptoms, such as discomfort in the chest, shortness of breath, or irregular
heartbeats. They can also help your doctor:
Check your heart's electrical
Check your pacemaker or other implanted device.
See if your
heart can handle more exercise.
Check how well your heart valves are working.
for problems with the structure of your heart.
Heart tests can be appropriate
for a healthy person. This happens when a personal history or physical exam points
to risk for a heart problem.
You can help decide if a test is right for you.
Talk with your doctor to make that decision.
Noninvasive tests do not require a doctor to insert a device into your
body. You may need an injection of a medicine during the test. Many of these tests
are imaging tests that provide still or moving pictures of your heart.
Before you have a test, you can ask your doctor
questions so that you can decide together if a test is right for you.
that you might ask your doctor include:
"Why am I going to have this test?"
there other tests that will give the same information? Do I have a choice of which
test to have? Do I need more than one of these tests?"
"Will this test help
you treat my problem? Will the test results change how I am being treated now?"
often is this test wrong? Could it say that I have a problem when I really don't?"
are the risks of this test?"
"What will happen if I don't have this test?"
much does this test cost?"
When should you
say "no" to a test?
Heart tests help a lot when your doctor is trying to find
out what's wrong, which treatment to use, or how well a certain treatment is working.
experts say that sometimes heart tests aren't needed-even for heart patients. It may
be okay to not have a test when everything is fine and you're just having a checkup.
A test may not be helpful if your doctor doesn't have a specific reason for the test-for
example, when you don't have heart disease or your treatment for heart disease does
not need to change.
Here's what experts say about common heart tests that are
sometimes ordered when they're not needed:
(EKG or ECG): You may see ads telling you that "screening" EKGs are a good way
to protect your health. "Screening" means having a test when you don't have any symptoms.
If you are healthy and have no symptoms of heart disease, you can say "no" to this
test. And even if you are a heart patient, a routine EKG just isn't needed as long
as you have no new symptoms and you see your doctor several times a year.
EKG: If you're healthy and have no symptoms of heart disease, you can say "no"
to this test, often called a stress test or treadmill test. In younger people who
don't have symptoms of heart disease, an exercise EKG can actually cause needless
worry. This is because it can show that you have heart problems when you really don't.
An echocardiogram isn't recommended as a routine test if you are healthy, have no
heart problems, and have a low risk for heart disease. If you have coronary artery disease, you probably don't
need this test unless you have new symptoms. It's not helpful for patients with mild
heart murmurs. But if you have certain heart problems, like a valve disease or heart
failure, your doctor needs to check your heart regularly with this test.
echo: This test isn't recommended if you're healthy and have no symptoms of heart
Imaging tests:An imaging test, such as a cardiac perfusion
scan, is not recommended before a surgery that is not being done on your heart and
has a low risk of problems. An example is a cataract surgery.
This test isn't recommended if you don't have risk factors for heart disease or you
are at high risk of heart disease. In either case, the test won't tell you and your
doctor anything you don't already know. But if your risk is medium, the test may tell
you whether you need to take action to prevent a heart attack in the next few years.
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Maron BJ, et al. (2007). Recommendations and considerations related
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U.S. Preventive Services
Task Force (2009). Using nontraditional risk factors in coronary heart disease risk
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ByHealthwise Staff Primary
Medical ReviewerRakesh K. Pai, MD - Cardiology, Electrophysiology E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine Martin
J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine Adam Husney, MD
- Family Medicine Specialist Medical ReviewerRobert A. Kloner, MD, PhD - Cardiology
This information does not replace the advice of a doctor.
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