At Alfieri Cardiology, the doctors and staff have many different diagnostic tools at their disposal, including EKGs and echocardiograms. Paul Alfieri, MD and Anthony Alfieri, DO serve the residents of Newark and Wilmington, Delaware, as well as the surrounding area. Read more by clicking on a title.
What Is an EKG?
An EKG, or electrocardiogram, is a diagnostic tool used to check on the effectiveness of the heart. Through a unique testing system, an EKG tracks the electrical impulses emitted by the heart and charts them as a series of lines on a piece of special graph paper. The heart has its own electrical system that causes its four chambers to work as a pump to send blood flowing throughout the body. EKGs check the heart’s level of activity and notes any abnormalities that may be present. This can include an irregular heartbeat, areas of the heart that are not working as they should, or if there is a defect in one of the chambers.
How Are EKGs Used to Diagnose Health Problems?
The doctor will hook up several diodes to the surface of a person’s chest or back. Once the EKG machine is turned on, the small receptors will begin to track the heart’s electrical impulses and record them as a series of up and down lines on a piece of graph paper that was specially designed for that purpose. The doctor can look at the lines and determine how efficiently a person’s heart is functioning. He can tell if there is an abnormal heartbeat, the walls of the heart are too thick or too thin, and he can also tell how well a pacemaker or other implanted device is functioning. An EKG can offer vital information about the health of a patient’s heart without having an invasive procedure.
How Long Does an EKG Take?
For most individuals, an EKG will last for less than thirty minutes. An EKG that is performed along with a stress test or other type of diagnostic test will take a little longer. Once the patient arrives for their appointment, they will be taken to the testing room and prepared. After the machine has been hooked up and the diodes are in place, the hard work is over, and all the patient has to do is lie on their back quietly while the test is being performed. When a stress test is included, the patient may be asked to walk or run at varying speeds on a treadmill to determine how the heart works while under different levels of physical stress.
What Is an Echocardiogram?
An echocardiogram uses ultrasound waves to help diagnose various heart conditions that will affect how the heart functions. The images of the heart that are produced through the test are used to show doctors areas where the heart is under stress or may not be functioning as efficiently as it should. The images also show doctors the size and shape of the heart, its chambers, and any abnormalities that may cause the heart to have an irregular rhythm or other problem. An echocardiogram performed on an infant can identify birth defects so that the doctor can immediately repair them, giving the infant a chance at a normal life.
Where Is an Echocardiogram Performed?
An echocardiogram is normally performed at the doctor’s office if they have the diagnostic equipment to sufficiently perform the task. There is no incision to be made or anesthetic needed. The patient simply lies on a table while a technician performs the ultrasound. An ultrasound is a test that is performed through the use of an imaging system. The images are created as sound waves and are directed at a certain area of the body. The way the sound waves bounce back and are received through the system provides the images the doctors will use to identify potential problems. The test is relatively painless and only takes a short amount of time.
How Are Echocardiograms Used to Diagnose Disease?
Doctors can watch the heart beating through the ultrasound images. This not only gives them a view of the heart, it also allows them to see what is happening as the heart beats. Echocardiograms can help identify where potential problems start, as well as how they may be affecting other parts of the organ. Along with an EKG and other diagnostic tools, the doctor will get a full picture of what the heart is doing when it is at rest or at work. He can use this information to create a well-rounded treatment plan that will get the person back on the road to good health. The doctor will continue to monitor how the person’s heart functions to ensure everything is going smoothly.
What Are Vascular Studies?
Vascular studies are used to diagnose specific illnesses, including heart conditions. Cardiac imaging tests are a type of vascular testing that allows doctors to see the heart in both form and function. They are able to see the heart’s strengths and weaknesses, watch it beat both at rest and under varying levels of stress, as well as identify birth defects and other abnormalities that may not otherwise be identified. Vascular studies show how the blood flows through the heart and how efficiently the heart handles the task. Ultrasound images are used to give the doctor an accurate view of exactly what is going on in and around the heart at any given time.
Why Are They So Useful?
The ultrasound technology that is used in vascular studies allows the doctor to watch the heart in motion. It also allows the doctor to view the heart from different perspectives, giving them the opportunity to witness certain aspects of its function that would not otherwise be able to be seen unless the heart was exposed through surgery. The doctor gets to witness how the heart functions in real time. This gives him an opportunity to determine other possible outcomes and work to develop an accurate treatment plan that will offer the patient the most satisfactory results possible.
What Types of Tools Are Used in Vascular Studies?
Ultrasound machines are just one-way doctors perform vascular studies. Arterial Doppler machines use pulse volume control to measure how well the blood flows through the abdomen and the extremities. With the use of blood pressure cuffs and other devices, the flow of blood is closely monitored and calculated using the pulses and their rhythm to create an accurate picture. During these tests, the ultrasound machine is also used to help identify potential problems at various places that may show up. The ultrasounds and Doppler readings will provide the doctor with an accurate view of how well your blood is flowing through your body.
What Are Nuclear Stress Tests?
A nuclear stress test is a specific kind of test to evaluate how well the heart is functioning. The entire process can take anywhere from three to four hours. To begin the test, the technician will use an IV to administer the drugs needed to place the appropriate level of stress on the heart. The doctor will then begin to take a series of images while the heart is exposed to different levels of stress. The doctor will check the heart when it is at rest, and under varying degrees of stress ranging from mild to extreme. The doctor will then evaluate the images and determine what type of treatment is appropriate if any.
What Does a Stress Test Show?
Stress tests can show several different types of information. They can determine if the heart muscle is growing weaker and what types of stress affect the heart the most. The tests can also identify irregular heart rhythms and areas of the heart that are not getting the appropriate level of stimulation. If the tests show that the heart’s electrical system is not performing correctly, they can help the doctor determine what type of pacemaker would be beneficial or if medication would suffice. Stress tests are designed to show the doctor how the heart reacts to various stimuli and to help them uncover what types of treatment may work best.
Are There Different Types of Stress Tests?
There are many different types of stress tests. Some tests involve an ECG or an EKG. Tests can use various types of stimulation as well. Nuclear stress tests use medications to simulate the different levels of stress that are placed on the heart. Other tests may involve the use of a treadmill, stationary bike, or another form of exercise equipment. The type of information the doctor is looking for will help him decide which test is best suited to produce the best overall results. The patient’s general health will also determine whether they can stand the stress of physical activity or if a stress test that uses medications would be a better choice.