Testing Your Heart’s Health In Our Office
Your primary care doctor has referred you to a specialist at Cardiology Associates of Savannah. Just the thought of it can be a little frightening. But you can rest assured that the oldest, most experienced cardiology practice in the Savannah area is also one where all of our physicians are trained and board certified in their specialty.
Not only do our doctors have excellent credentials but they are also up to date on the latest procedures and technology. Our specialists’ exceptional training and years of hands-on expertise often translates to faster recovery times and less discomfort for our patients. Knowledge, training, and compassion are the qualities that set us apart and allow you to receive the best care available.
There are several tests that can be administered to determine your heart’s health. Many can be done right in our offices for your convenience. With eight satellite locations, our patients who live outside of Savannah often have the additional ease and comfort of our quality care close to home.
One of the most common issues raised by our patients is heart palpitations, a “racing” or fluttering sensation of the heart. Sometimes our patients say they feel as if their heart skips or adds a beat, taking their breath away for a second or two.
If you are experiencing heart palpitations, more than likely you will be given a holter monitor to wear for 24-48 hours which will record the beating of your heart. Electrodes will be attached to your chest and will feed the rhythm of your heart into the monitor. This is a painless test and most of our patients say it’s easy to sleep with the monitor since it’s not cumbersome.
Your cardiologist will read the results of your test and determine if any treatment is required. At times, the solution is a simple one, like cutting back on caffeine!
An electrocardiogram or EKG is a basic screening to determine if there are any problems with your heart and arteries. Typically everyone who sees one of our cardiologists will be given an EKG. This is a painless test that takes only a few minutes and requires no prior preparation before you arrive. It is important, however, to mention any medications that you are currently taking before coming for your appointment since some prescriptions can alter the accuracy of the test.
Once you are in an examining room, you will be asked to lie down while 12 small, sticky patches, called electrodes, are attached to your arms, legs, and chest. While you lie still, your heart’s electrical current will be recorded so that your physician can determine your heart’s pumping pattern.
Your doctor will be checking the rhythm of your heart and can determine if it’s beating too fast or too slow, which may indicate a problem. As soon as the test is over, your physician will give you the results. At this time, your doctor will discuss with you if any further tests or procedures are required.
An echocardiogram is an ultrasound that gives your physician a visual picture of your heart and arteries. This test is often used in conjunction with an EKG. Just as an EKG determines your heart’s electrical pattern, an echocardiogram helps your physician to establish your heart’s pumping ability, while evaluating its size, shape, and valve function.
This test is painless and takes about 30 minutes to perform. You will be asked to lie on your back or side while a technician passes an instrument that looks like a small rod over your chest. The ultrasound waves transmitted from the device then build an image of your heart onto a screen so that your physician can see if you have any heart valve disorders or coronary heart disease. In some cases, a substance may be injected into your bloodstream to get an even clearer picture of your heart and arteries. The substance is not harmful and can indicate scar tissue or other problems. This visual snapshot of your heart will also show any defects, blockages, tumors, or previously undetected heart attacks.
The results of your test will be read either that day or shortly thereafter. Your doctor will answer any of your concerns or questions regarding your results. Should you require further treatment, your doctor will also discuss the best treatment plan for you.
An echocardiogram (echo) is an imaging test that uses harmless sound waves to check your heart. Echo testing shows how well your heart muscle and valves are working. It also shows how large your heart is. A transducer – a device that looks like a small rod – is used to bounce sound waves off your heart. A computer changes the sound waves into images that are seen on a monitor. Depending on what information your doctor needs, you may have one of several types of echocardiograms. Each type is painless and safe.
Treadmill Stress Test
A treadmill stress test will reveal how your heart responds to exertion and if there are any blockages in your arteries, problems with blood flow, heart valve concerns, or coronary heart disease. It’s also advised that you wear comfortable clothes and shoes that will allow you to move easily. If you typically use an inhaler, it is important to bring it with you in case you need it during your appointment.
Our office will advise you about whether or not you should take your prescription medication the day of the test. If you are diabetic and taking insulin, our office will also give you instructions about insulin and food intake.
During your appointment, 10 electrodes will be positioned on your chest and attached to an EKG monitor. As you walk on the treadmill, the speed will increase gradually and the treadmill will tilt slightly which will increase your exertion and heart rate. This test will feel similar to going on a brisk walk up a small hill. If at any time you feel dizzy or overly winded and need to stop the test, our technician will be happy to do so.
Your physician will discuss your results at your appointment and will patiently answer your questions or concerns. You may need additional testing and any further tests or procedures will also be discussed with you.
Nuclear Stress Test
A nuclear stress test is a very safe and effective way to evaluate the blood flow through your heart and arteries. You may be asked not to eat or drink a few of hours before the test, and you will be given instructions about taking any of your prescription medication. It is important not to have any caffeine for 12 hours before the test (as it may interfere with the test). This test can take about three to four hours, with periods of rest during the test.
When you arrive for the test, you will be given an IV in your arm and a small amount of radioactive dye will be injected through your vein. Electrodes that feed into an electrocardiogram machine will be attached to your chest, arms, and legs tracking the electrical impulse of your heart. To begin, pictures of your heart will be taken at rest while you are lying down.
If you are unable to exercise, you will be given medicine that will stimulate your heart as if it were under exertion. You may even feel short of breath as if you have been exercising. If you are capable of exercise, you will walk on a treadmill that will gradually increase in speed and inclination. Once you have either been given medication or completed the exercise, you will be asked to lie down again and another small dose of dye will be given to you through the IV. More images of your heart will be taken which will reveal its level of functionality. The radioactive dye will show any blockages which will confirm to your doctor whether or not you have coronary heart disease. The results from this test will also help your doctor determine the next best steps regarding your heart’s health.
After the test, you can resume your normal activities and eat or drink as usual. It takes just a little while for all of the radioactive dye to leave your system, and drinking water will help to flush it out.