Cardiology tests to evaluate your heart health
Diagnosing a heart or vascular condition quickly and accurately can save your life or help to preserve your quality of life. Many heart screening and diagnostic tests are performed on an outpatient basis. Depending on your situation, your primary care physician or cardiologist may order several tests in order to gain accurate and complete information and help prevent future heart health issues.
The board certified cardiologists at the HCA Midwest Heart and Vascular Institute can uncover all forms of cardiovascular disease. We use modern equipment to provide comprehensive heart tests and cardiac imaging options. Our Kansas City hospitals and expert medical personnel use state-of-the-art imaging technology, software and protocols to reduce our patient’s exposure to radiation.
To find a top cardiologist in Kansas City, or to refer a patient for a cardiology test call:
If you are experiencing heart disease symptoms, your Kansas City cardiologist may order a stress test if they suspect coronary artery disease or arrhythmia. A stress test is used to gain insights about how your heart works during physical activity. It may help uncover problems that are not apparent when your heart is at rest. This test is not meant to detect early coronary artery disease. Patients will only appear positive for the disease if one of their arteries is narrowed by 70 percent or greater. If you have already been diagnosed with coronary artery disease, your heart doctor may order a stress test to help guide or evaluate your treatment plan.
Your cardiologist will work with you to choose the type of cardiology stress test that fits your needs.
Treadmill Stress Test
Also known as exercise stress test, this is the simplest type of stress test. It involves walking on a treadmill while your heartbeat (via an EKG), blood pressure and breathing are tested.
An echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) is performed while at rest and then again immediately after exercising.
Nuclear Stress Test
With this type of stress test, a radioactive tracer is fed through an IV into your bloodstream and images of your heart are taken with a nuclear camera. This is done both before and after exercising. If the tracer is evenly distributed, your blood is flowing as it should. If it is unevenly distributed in the same areas at rest and after exercise, the test has indicated areas that have been affected by a heart attack. If the tracer is unevenly distributed in an area only after exercise, it means that blood flow in that area is restricted. This suggests a blockage and may require a heart catheterization.
If a person is unable to exercise, medication can be administered to mimic the effects of exercise on the heart.
The types of stress tests mentioned above are available at all seven of our Kansas City hospitals. With HCA Midwest Health, you don’t have to travel far for the quality heart care you need.
Heart Scan (Coronary Calcium Scan)
It is common to have coronary heart disease without having symptoms. Many times, by the time symptoms appear, the disease is already advanced. A calcium heart scan, also called calcium scoring, is a type of CT scan that can detect plaque buildup in the coronary arteries. This non-invasive test is usually recommended for men over 40 and women over 50 years old. There is no prep required and the actual test takes less than five minutes. The heart CT scan is great for people with no symptoms of heart disease because it can pick up plaque build-up before it is severe. This gives you a chance to make lifestyle changes or start medication to possibly prevent or slow the development of heart disease.
Based on the test, you will receive a score. A score of zero means you do not have any calcified plaque. There is no upper limit but the higher your score the more plaque build up you have and the greater you are at risk for a coronary event such as a heart attack.
This scan is usually not covered by insurance but is available for $50. In Missouri, you can make an appointment for a heart scan without a physician referral. In Kansas, you will need to have your primary care physician or cardiologist order the test. HCA Midwest Health offers heart scans at all seven of its’ Kansas City hospitals.
Heart Disease Risk Assessment
If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of cardiovascular disease, your cardiologist may order a cardiac MRI. An MRI heart scan uses magnetic waves and computers to capture two and three-dimensional images of the heart and its’ valves. An MRI does not use radiation. In some instances, EKG leads may be placed on your chest during the scan. Contrast dye may also be administered via an IV to aid in diagnosis. This test can be used to identify damage from a heart attack and blockages, as well as other structural heart problems.
A heart CT scan takes three-dimensional x-ray images and is primarily used to check for coronary artery disease. Your doctor may order a cardiac CT if you have been experiencing symptoms such as chest pain or shortness of breath. During a non-invasive CT angiogram, contrast dye is administered via an IV to help highlight the coronary arteries and check for narrowing or blockage. It can also be used to assess blood flow dynamics in the coronary arteries to calculate significant coronary artery disease. This type of test can help avoid unnecessary invasive testing. If a significant blockage is identified, you may need a minimally invasive diagnostic heart cath.
Advanced Blood Flow Testing
Many times, a cardiac CT scan will provide your doctor with enough information to determine the next steps in your treatment plan. Other times, advanced testing needed to show how each blockage is affecting the flow of blood to your heart.
Menorah Medical Center and Overland Park Regional Medical Center are offering HeartFlow® FFRCT Analysis. This advanced, non-invasive test does not require an additional appointment. The test uses your current CT scan to create a computerized 3D model of your coronary arteries and calculate how much each blockage is limiting blood flow. With this valuable information, your heart doctor can work with you to develop a treatment plan that first your individual needs, and potentially eliminate the need for an invasive cardiac procedure.
An echocardiogram is an ultrasound of your heart. It uses sound waves to examine your heart’s size, shape and motion. It can capture still and moving images without exposing you to any radiation. A heart echo is usually one of the first tests your doctor will order if you are experiencing shortness of breath or a heart murmur. This test can help identify leaky valves, weakness, infection and can measure blood pressure. It can also be used to detect congenital heart defects in babies in utero. There are two ways echocardiograms are performed:
- Transthoracic – This is your standard cardiology echo test. A technician will apply gel to your skin and use a transducer to take pictures of your heart. It is simple, painless, non-invasive and can add a lot of valuable information before needing to undergo more complicated testing. Contrast dye may be administered through an IV to help with picture clarity.
- Transesophageal – Sometimes it can be difficult to get a clear image of the heart with a standard echo. During this type of echo, a flexible tube with a small transducer is guided down your throat into the esophagus. From there, it can take clearer images of the heart. And don’t worry, you will be given medicine so that you don’t experience any discomfort during this quick and painless procedure.
A heart echo test can take about thirty minutes and is available at all seven of HCA Midwest Health’s Kansas City hospitals.
Nuclear Heart Test
Cardiac nuclear imaging tests are used to evaluate the way your heart functions. A special radioactive tracer is administered through an IV and a special nuclear camera is used to make three-dimensional pictures. The pictures show different colors or levels of brightness to indicate the health of the tissue. The amount of radiation used in these tests are very small and the tests are safe for most people.
Also known as a coronary angiogram, this minimally invasive procedure is used to diagnose coronary artery disease, heart valve defects and congenital heart defects in people with symptoms. A catheter is inserted into an artery in the groin or arm and gently guided up into the coronary arteries. Via the catheter, a dye is administered and x-ray images of the arteries are taken. This procedure allows interventional cardiologists to see the heart as it pumps blood, providing the most accurate and complete information. If a significant blockage is discovered, an angioplasty can be performed at the same time – helping to avoid a potential heart attack.