Today, cardiovascular diseases continue to be one of the leading causes of death in developed countries, so that in most cases (more than 60%) we can confirm that adequate control of risk factors was not carried out.
Hence the need and importance of prevention and early diagnosis in heart disease. Thanks to cardiological tests, carried out in regular check-ups, it is possible to prevent risk factors, diseases, and the appearance of symptoms by treating them early.
Next, Dr. Gómez Doblas, head of the heart area at Vithas Xanit Internacional, explains to us which are some of the cardiology tests that are performed more frequently, what they consist of and in which cases they are recommended.
The electrocardiogram (ECG) is one of the most performed diagnostic tests in cardiology, which records the electrical activity of the heart that occurs with each beat, in order to measure the patient’s cardiac rhythm and function.
By interpreting the results of the electrocardiogram, the cardiologist can detect and diagnose various heart diseases: if the patient has suffered a heart attack, blockages, arrhythmias, other heart disorders, etc.
What is the electrocardiogram?
It is a very simple, completely painless and risk-free diagnostic test that is performed in a few minutes.
To perform the test, patch-shaped electrodes are attached to the arms, legs, and chest. These electrodes are connected by cables to the machine that interprets the electrical activity of the heart collected by them, representing it in the form of waves.
During the test, the patient must lie down, immobile and relaxed, without speaking. Before the test, the patient must inform the specialist if is taking any medication, since there are drugs that can interfere with the results of the electrocardiogram. In addition, in the moments prior to the test the patient should not perform physical exercise or drink cold drinks.
Once the test is finished, the cardiologist will interpret the results to determine if they are normal (between 60-100 beats per minute, with a constant and uniform rhythm) or, on the contrary, show signs of a heart condition.
When an electrocardiogram is necessary
The electrocardiogram is performed both in patients without previous heart problems as a preventive measure in health check-ups, and to check for heart disease when the patient has pain, palpitations, has a family history or has previously suffered from heart problems.
It is also very common to perform an electrocardiogram in the preoperative of all types of interventions, especially when the patient has risk factors.
When performing any physical activity, both sports and day-to-day, the need for blood flow increases, and with it the effort made by the heart. The stress test or ergometry allows to know how the heart works when subjected to stress during exercise, detecting possible heart abnormalities, if any, and that are not detected at rest.
Through this stress test or ergometry the patient must make the greatest effort possible reaching the maximum level of resistance. In the event that during the test the patient feels chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness or nausea, the patient should immediately notify the specialist who is performing the test.
The results will be considered normal when the patient has been able to exercise during the time estimated for his age and sex, as long as the patient has not presented symptoms or notable changes in blood pressure or the electrical activity of the heart.
How is the stress test performed
The stress test involves the patient doing physical exercise on a stationary bike or on a treadmill for about 60 minutes, at the speed indicated by the doctor, while the patient’s heart rate is monitored to determine how the heart responds to said exercise.
To monitor cardiac electrical activity during the test, electrodes are attached to the patient’s chest before starting (that is, an electrocardiogram is performed during the stress test). In addition, every few minutes the patient’s blood pressure will also be measured.
The test ends when the desired heart rate is reached, the patient shows signs of chest pain, is overly tired, or has other symptoms. If the ECG shows warning signs such as the heart not getting enough oxygen (signs of ischemia) or rhythm disturbances, the test will be stopped immediately.
In which cases is the stress test performed
The stress test is common in patients with hypertension, heart failure, congenital heart disease, etc. Among the reasons the cardiologist requests this test are the following:
- Patient indicates chest pain
- If there are risk factors or heart disease
- After suffering a heart attack or angina
- In patients who have undergone surgery
- To check changes in heart rate while exercising
- Diagnose heart valve problems
It is also performed in general health and preventive check-ups, and can even be performed in completely healthy people who simply want to know how their heart reacts to physical exercise.
The stress test is also recommended for all types of athletes. In the case of professional athletes, they are subjected to this test at least once a year. This serves both to know the state of heart health and to adapt the training and its intensity to avoid overexertion of the heart. In this way, this test makes it possible to rule out coronary heart disease, and to know if that athlete has any risk if they continue to exercise, despite being apparently healthy.
The echocardiogram is another of the fundamental and most frequently performed cardiological tests, which through the use of ultrasound allows to observe the anatomy of the heart and its functioning, to be able to observe moving images of the heart in greater detail than in an x-ray and without having to radiating the patient.
These ultrasound images provide very useful information to the cardiologist, since they can accurately verify the size and shape, function, strength of the heart, movement and thickness of the walls and the operation of the valves. With the most advanced echocardiographs, it is also possible to see and measure blood flow in the heart and arteries.
How the echocardiogram is performed
The echocardiogram is performed using an echocardiograph, which is made up of three parts: a transducer (which is the device used to capture images), a screen, and a computer.
To view the images, first a conductive gel is applied, either to the transducer or to the patient’s chest, which is the area where the transducer will move to capture images of the heart.
The test lasts around 15-30 minutes, during which the patient must lie down while the specialist views and records the images. It is a totally painless test, without risks or side effects, which can also be performed in pregnant women and does not require prior preparation.
Furthermore, if an echocardiogram is also needed, it is possible to perform both tests at the same time, placing the necessary electrodes for the electrocardiogram on the patient at the same time as the echocardiogram.
In which cases is an echocardiogram performed
Since the echocardiogram allows analyzing the anatomy of the heart and its functionality, it is usually performed in patients when there are suspicions of abnormalities in the valves and cavities of the heart. Since it is a simple, innocuous test that takes little time to perform, it is also performed as part of preventive and/or routine check-ups.
Thanks to the results obtained, the cardiologist can determine if there are abnormalities in the structure of the heart, abnormal rhythms, congenital heart disease, etc. In this way, it is possible to diagnose valvular diseases, cardiomyopathies and ischemic pathologies, among others.
Cardiology reviews and tests at Vithas Xanit Internacional
Whether you are interested in a general health checkup or specific cardiology tests, remember that at Vithas Xanit Internacional we put at your disposal the best specialists who, together with the most advanced technology, allow us to offer you the most complete reviews and the most accurate diagnoses. If you are interested, do not hesitate to contact us for more information or make an appointment.