The diagnosis of heart disease begins with a medical history, a physical exam, a laboratory tests, and perhaps chest X-rays. Your doctor may also want you to have specific tests to see how well your heart is working. These tests may include:

  • electrocardiogram (ECG)
  • stress test
  • echocardiogram
  • angiogram
  • electrophysiology tests

An electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) is a test that measures the electrical activity of the heart. For an ECG, small electrodes are placed on your chest, wrist, and ankles. The electrodes pick up the electrical currents that move through your heart. The currents are converted into patterns or waves that are printed and assessed by a doctor.

A stress test evaluates if your heart muscle is getting enough blood and oxygen during activity. It is basically an ECG or electrocardiogram that is done during physical activity.

An angiogram is a type of X-ray where the doctor can see how blood flows into the heart. To get an image of blood flow, the doctors inject dye that will show up on the X-ray. The dye is injected through a thin tube called a catheter that is insert into a vein in your groin or arm and guided into your coronary arteries (the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle).

An echocardiogram is an ultrasound - an imaging technique using sound waves - that produces pictures of your heart. It shows how the blood is moving through the heart and its size and shape.

An electrophysiology study (EPS) is a type of test to evaluate an arrhythmia. During the test, a thin flexible catheter is inserted through a vein in your groin or arm and guided to your heart. The catheter stimulates your heart to see how your heart responds. Sometimes, the type of arrhythmia you are suspected to have will be triggered on purpose so your doctor can confirm the diagnosis. While you are having an EPS, you will also have an ECG to record the electrical activity of your heart.

The tests your doctor will order depends on the type of heart disease your doctor thinks you have. If you have any questions about tests that have been recommended, be sure to ask your doctor.