If your consultant or GP have recommended investigation into a possible heart problem, such as shortness of breath, palpitations, dizziness or chest pain, you may be referred for procedures to monitor your heart .
An ECG test records the rhythm and electrical activity of the heart. It can detect problems with your heart rhythm, including if you have had a heart attack in the past, or in emergency situations it can detect if you are currently having a heart attack. Occasionally, an ECG can indicate if your heart is enlarged or thickened.
A cardiac (heart) event monitor is a device used to record the electrical activity of the heart and may be used to detect irregular heart rhythms, called arrhythmias.
To monitor your hearts events, you will be fitted with a cardiac event recorder. This is a small battery powered device that you can control recording when you have symptoms. You will be asked to make a note of what you were doing at the time, and of any other symptoms you were experiencing.
Your consultant or doctor may recommend you are fitted with a heart event monitor for a certain period so monitor your symptoms whilst you go about your daily activities. Although ECG’s are useful, they are only monitoring that specific moment in time, so a constant monitor over a set period helps establish patterns and helps diagnosis. Monitoring usually takes place over a 24-48 hour period, or up to a 7 day period. This is usually decided by your consultant.
An exercise tolerance test, or an ETT, is similar to an electrocardiogram or ECG, but it is carried out when you are exercising. A treadmill or an exercise bike is usually used. While exercising your heart rate and rhythm is monitored by an electrocardiogram and your blood pressure is also checked.
Exercise tolerance testing (also known as exercise testing or exercise stress testing) is used routinely in evaluating patients who have symptoms of chest pain, in patients who have chest pain on exertion and in patients with known ischaemic heart disease. The amount of exercise a patient can tolerate, for example, before the symptoms of angina are triggered, is measured using this test and the information is then useful to determine how serious a patient’s angina may be.
Myocardial perfusion scans can be used to try to find the cause of unexplained chest pain, or chest pain brought on by exercise. This test may also be done to:
- Show blood flow patterns to the heart walls
- See whether the heart (coronary) arteries are blocked and by how much
- Determine the extent of injury to the heart following a heart attack
- A myocardial perfusion scan requires a small injection of radioactive tracer to allow your heart to be imaged.
Sometimes this is called a MIBI scan. Often this scan is performed after gentle exercise to see how the heart muscle responds under stress.