Diagnosing Congestive Heart Failure

Holter Monitor
For this test, also called an ambulatory electrocardiography, a small box called a Holter monitor is attached to patches (electrodes) that are placed on your chest. The box may be carried in a pouch around your neck or attached to your belt. The Holter monitor is usually worn for 24 hours and provides a continuous recording of heart rhythm during normal activity.
Cardiac Blood Pool Scan
This test uses a radioactive imaging agent that is injected into a vein to outline the chambers of the heart and blood vessels leading to it. This will show how well the heart is pumping blood to the rest of the body. This test is also known as a radionuclide ventriculography or nuclear scan.
Cardiac Catheterization
For a cardiac catheterization, a thin, flexible tube is passed through an artery at the top of the leg or in the arm to reach the coronary arteries. This allows your doctor to study the inside of your arteries to see if there is any blockage. Your doctor can check the pressure and blood flow in the heart's chambers, collect blood samples from the heart, and examine the arteries of the heart by x-ray.
Coronary Angiography
A coronary angiography is usually performed along with cardiac catheterization. A dye that can be seen by x-ray is injected into the coronary arteries. Your doctor can see the flow of blood to the heart muscle. Dye can also be injected into the chambers of the heart to evaluate its pumping function.
Exercise Stress Test
For an exercise stress test, an EKG and blood pressure readings are taken before, during, and after exercise to see how your heart responds to exercise. The first EKG and blood pressure reading are done to get a baseline measurement. Readings are then taken while you walk on an exercise treadmill or pedal a stationary bicycle. The test continues until you reach a heart rate set by your doctor.
The exercise part of the stress test is stopped if chest pain or a very sharp rise in blood pressure occurs. Monitoring continues for 10 to 15 minutes after exercise or until your heart rate returns to baseline. An echocardiogram or nuclear scan is often included to evaluate the pumping function of your heart.
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Information on Congestive Heart Failure

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