Cardiovascular Disease refers to a medical condition that is caused by a hindrance in heart’s blood supply due to plaque or fatty substance buildup in the coronary arteries. This condition is also referred to as Coronary Heart Disease (CHD). Main risk factors for CAD include high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol levels, smoking and uncontrolled diabetes. CHD can cause severe chest pain (angina) and in some cases lead to heart attack or death of the patient. Considering the seriousness of the ailment, cardiovascular disease diagnosis and treatment is very important to treat this medical condition at the earliest.
Listed below are some of the most important and widely performed tests that help cardiovascular disease diagnosis.
ECG records the rhythm and electrical signals of the heart. A few electrodes are attached to the arms, legs, and chest to record the electrical signals of heart during each heartbeat. ECG can detect problems in heart rhythm, however, an abnormal reading may not necessarily mean a coronary heart disease.
In some cases, Stress Electrocardiogram may also be used. The patient is asked to walk on the treadmill or ride a stationary bike while recording the heart signals. It is one of the most commonly performed and less invasive screening tests to find out if the patient is suffering from Coronary Artery Disease. The accuracy of this test is 50%.
An echocardiogram is an ultrasound of the heart. Echo generates image of the heart using sound waves, thereby identifying the structure of heart, thickness of heart muscles, movements of valves and pumping mechanism.
During an echocardiogram, a gel is applied on the chest and transducer is moved along the chest to generate the image of the heart. Cardiovascular disease diagnosis using Echo is 85-90% accurate.
Nuclear Cardiac Imaging
This test checks the capability of the arteries to increase blood supply with stress. This test is performed by a radiologist and is about twice as costly as a Stress Echo test.
Before the test, a small amount of a medical radioactive material is injected. In some cases, medication may be given to make the increase the heartbeat. During the test, a camera placed near the chest picks up the radiation transmitted by the radioactive material as it passes through the heart and highlights the regions with inadequate blood supply.
Coronary Angiography, also known as Cardiac Catheterization is a technique that uses medical imaging to view the organs and blood vessels of the patient’s body. This test is particularly performed to view the veins, arteries and heart chambers and to diagnose blockages and other problems. This is one of the most effective technique for cardiovascular disease diagnosis.
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Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
MRI uses magnetic field and radio waves to produce a detailed graphic pictures of the heart. During the test, the patient lies down inside a tunnel-like scanning machine.
Computerised Tomography (CT) Scan
CT Scan produces detailed images of the body using X-ray. During a CT scan, the patient lies down and a X-ray machine rotates around the body to capture the images.
Blood tests like the cardiac enzyme tests, can help the doctor determine if there has been any recent damage to the heart muscle.
Read about: Coronary Artery Disease & Familial Heart Disease