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Cardiovascular Diagnostics

  • Echocardiogram: An echocardiogram is a noninvasive procedure that uses sound waves (ultrasound) to evaluate how well the heart is working. Gel is applied to the chest and a transducer (wand-like apparatus) is moved over the chest area to produce an image of the internal structures of the heart. An echocardiogram can help diagnose heart valve problems and determine their severity. Echo techniques provide information about conditions such as heart muscle contraction, valve motion, blood clots in heart chambers, and scar tissue from heart attacks.

  • Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG): An electrocardiogram is a noninvasive test that records the electrical activity of the heart. Mercy Heart Center's electrocardiography laboratory provides a full range of services for detecting heartbeat abnormalities. Services include standard 12-lead electrocardiograms, recorders that monitor up to 24 continuous hours of heartbeats, patient-activated monitoring devices that record irregularities of heart rate and heart rhythm, and devices that identify patients at high risk for sudden death from irregularities of heart rhythm.

  • Stress Test: The Mercy Heart Center Stress Test laboratory uses treadmill and bicycle exercise to assess performance of the cardiovascular system and to detect coronary artery disease. Pharmacological stress testing is provided for patients who cannot exercise.

  • Nuclear Cardiography: Nuclear cardiology evaluates cardiac blood flow and function through the use of small amounts of radioactive materials. Nuclear cardiology can help identify patients who might benefit from angioplasty or bypass surgery after a heart attack. Images of the heart provided by special cameras detect the presence and function severity of heart disease, especially coronary artery disease. Many nuclear imaging procedures are performed in conjunction with exercise or pharmacological stress testing.

  • Stress Echocardiogram: A stress echo is a non-invasive test that combines two tests, a treadmill stress test and echocardiogram (ECHO). This test will help the doctor to evaluate the patient's cardiac condition related to:

    • Irregular heart rhythms
    • If there is a decreased supply of blood and oxygen to the heart at rest as well as with exertion
    • Overall level of cardiovascular conditioning
    • How hard the heart can work before symptoms develop
    • How quickly the heart recovers after exercise

    An echocardiogram is done at rest prior to exercise and again at peak heart rate. The echocardiogram uses sound waves (ultrasound) to provide an image of his heart's internal structures, size and movement. This image is produced by moving a transducer (a very sensitive wand-like device) over the chest area. Electrodes are placed on the chest to monitor the heart's rate and rhythm throughout the test.

    The patient will walk on a treadmill, gradually increasing the speed and incline. The patient will exercise from a few up to 15 minutes depending upon his or her level of activity. The test will be stopped if the patient becomes too tired and/or has symptoms such as chest pain. The cardiologist will be looking for changes in the EKG pattern and any symptoms that the patient may experience. At the peak of exercise, the treadmill will be stopped, and the patient will be instructed to lie down immediately on a bed so that a second echocardiogram can be taken to visualize the heart's motion with exercise.

  • Holter Monitor: Holter monitoring is a continuous, 24-hour electrocardiographic (EKG) recording of the heart's rhythm. Electrodes are placed on the chest area with the leads attached to a small recorder. The patient will keep a 24-hour diary to record daily activities and any symptoms experienced. The patient will return the next day to have the monitor removed. This test will help the doctor evaluate the type and amount of irregular heartbeats during regular activities, exercise and sleep.

  • Transesophageal Echocardiogram: The transesophageal echocardiogram allows the cardiologist to view the internal structures of the heart and the heart's major vessels by inserting a probe (a thin flexible tube with a special tip) down the throat. The patient is sedated so he or she will be relaxed and unaware of any discomfort during the procedure.

    An IV line will be started so the nurse can give a sedative. A monitor will be placed on the patient's finger so that the amount of oxygen in his/her blood can be monitored continuously throughout the procedure. The patient will be positioned on the left side so that the probe can be inserted through the mouth into the esophagus. The tip of the probe sends out sound waves (ultrasound) that echo within the chest cavity. These echoes are create a picture of the heart that is displayed on the video monitor.

    The test will help the physician evaluate the patient's heart condition related to:

    • If there are any congenital defects, heart valve disease, or heart muscle disease.
    • If an artificial valve is functioning properly.
    • If there are any blood clots within the heart.

    For more information, call 641-428-7242 or 800-433-3883, ext.7242.

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 Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa | 1000 4th Street SW Mason City, IA 50401 | 641-428-7000

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