Non-Invasive Tests and Procedures

Learn about common tests you may need if a heart attack is suspected.

Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG)

(Also known as electrocardiography)

What the Test Does
An electrocardiogram records the electrical activity of the heart, including the timing and duration of each electrical phase in your heartbeat.

Reasons for Test

  • Helps determine whether a heart attack has occurred.
  • Helps predict if a heart attack is developing.
  • Monitors changes in heart rhythm.
Learn more about electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG).

Ambulatory Electrocardiography and Holter Monitoring

(Also known as Holter monitoring or ambulatory ECG or ambulatory EKG)

What the Test Does
Records the electrical activity of the heart during daily activities.

Reasons for Test

  • Documents and describes abnormal electrical activity in the heart during daily activities to help your medical team determine the condition of the heart.
  • Helps determine the best possible treatment options.
Learn more about Holter monitors.

Chest X-Ray

What the Test Does
Takes a picture of the structures in and around the chest.

Reason for Test

  • Determines whether the heart is enlarged or if fluid is accumulating in the lungs as a result of the heart attack.
Learn more about chest X-rays.

Echocardiogram (Echo)

What the Test Does
The hand-held device placed on the heart, chest or throat uses high-frequency sound waves (ultrasound) to produce images of your heart's size, structure and motion.

Reasons for Test

  • Provides valuable information about the health of your heart.
  • Helps gather information about the structure and performance of the heart muscle and valves while beating.
Learn more about echocardiograms.

Cardiac Computed Tomography Angiography (CCTA)

(Also called Tomography) 

What the Test Does
Computer imaging (tomography) refers to several non-invasive diagnostic-imaging tests that use computer-aided techniques to gather images of the heart. A computer creates three-dimensional (3-D) images that can show blockages caused by calcium deposits you may have in your coronary arteries.

These tests include CT, CAT scan, EBCT, PET, DCA, DSA, multidetector CT (MDCT), MRI and SPECT.

Reason for Test

  • Evaluates aortic disease (such as aortic dissection), cardiac masses and pericardial disease.
Learn more about computed tomography.

Exercise Stress Test

(Also called treadmill test, exercise test, exercise cardiac stress test or ECST)

What the Test Does
Many aspects of your heart function can be checked including heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, ECG (EKG) and how tired you become when exercising. During this test, your heart function is monitored while you walk in place on a treadmill with electrodes attached to the skin on your chest.

Reasons for Test

  • Helps diagnose coronary artery disease (CAD).
  • Helps diagnose the possible cause of symptoms such as chest pain (angina).
  • Helps determine your safe level of exercise.
  • Helps predict dangerous heart-related conditions such as heart attack.
Learn more about exercise stress test.

Radionuclide Imaging

(Also called radionuclide stress test and nuclear stress test)

What the Test Does
It uses a radioactive substance injected into the bloodstream when the patient is at maximum level of exercise, then takes pictures with a special (gamma) camera of the heart’s muscle cells. It’s similar to a routine exercise stress test but with images.

The types of radionuclide imaging tests are:

  • Single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT)
  • Myocardial perfusion imaging (MPI)
  • Infarct avid imaging
  • Radionuclide ventriculography

Reasons for Test

  • Helps measure blood flow of your heart muscle at rest and during stress.
  • Helps determine the extent of a coronary artery blockage.
  • Helps determine the extent of damage from a heart attack.
  • Helps determine cause of chest pain (angina).
  • Helps determine level of safe exercise for patients.

Learn more about radionuclide imaging.