Houston Heart brings the most advanced cardiac technologies and practices right to the heart of our Houston community. From our leading-edge cath labs for less-invasive surgery, robotics for advanced precision and a one-of-a-kind mitral valve program, we have the tools and expertise to give you exactly the care you need, where you need it. And as part of HCA Healthcare—the largest healthcare system in the nation—we are only strengthened and equipped to provide you with a better kind of care.
Coronary angiography uses contrast and imaging to show the insides of your coronary (heart) arteries. During the test, a long, thin, flexible tube called a catheter is put into a blood vessel in your arm, groin (upper thigh), or neck. The tube is then threaded into your coronary arteries, and the contrast is injected into your bloodstream. Imaging is live while the contrast is flowing through your coronary arteries. This allows your doctor to study the flow of blood through your heart and blood vessels and identify blockage locations. These blockages are what cause heart attacks and it’s important to identify and treat them as soon as possible.
Ankle-brachial index test
This test is a simple non-invasive test for peripheral artery disease (PAD). When the arteries narrow and reduce the blood flow to your limbs this can cause leg pain and increases your risk of heart attack and stroke.
The ABI test compares the blood pressure at your arm with the blood pressure at your leg. A low number can be indicative of a blockage or narrowing in the arteries.
Cardiac calcium scoring
Cardiac calcium scoring, or coronary calcium scan, can give your physician a look at your risk for heart attack. This scoring is done using a CT machine and it takes images of your vessels and arteries to check for calcium within them. The calcium that forms in your vessels and arteries is not good for your heart. Your physician will take other factors into consideration along with your calcium scoring like your age, blood pressure, cholesterol, gender, and smoking habits.
Your physician will use these results to decide the next course of action which could be medication, lifestyle changes, or intervention.
Cardiac stress test
Some heart problems are easier to diagnose when your heart is working hard and beating fast. During stress testing, you exercise (or are given medicine if you're unable to exercise) to make your heart work hard and beat fast while heart tests are done.
Some stress test go in tandem with a nuclear heart scan that takes pictures of a tracer that is injected into your blood and travels to your heart. You will have two sets of pictures taken, one directly after you exercise, and another set when your heart rate has gone back down to normal.
Computerized tomography angiography (CTA)
A CTA test uses X-rays to visualize blood flow in arteries and veins throughout the body. To visualize the vessels, contrast material is injected into a small peripheral vein using a small needle or catheter. During the examination, beams of X-rays are passed from a rotating device through the area of interest in the patient's body from several different angles to create cross-sectional images. Those images are then assembled by computer into a three-dimensional picture of the area being studied.
Electrical signals in your heart make the heart muscles contract, pumping blood through your body. If the electrical signals are not flowing well through the heart, this can create serious problems, including heart disease, stroke or even death.
An electrophysiology study is a diagnostic test used to assess the heart’s electrical system and to locate the source of an abnormal heart rhythm (heart arrhythmia). EP studies are performed by specially trained cardiac electrophysiologists. During the test, electrode wires are passed through a blood vessel into your heart. The electrode can record or create electrical activity, enabling your physician to find any problems with the flow of electricity in your heart.
An EP study helps a physician diagnose a patient’s type of arrhythmia to determine the best treatment, which may include medications, a pacemaker or implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) or surgery.
An echocardiogram (also known as an echo or cardiac echo) is a test that uses ultrasound to create images of the heart. An ultrasound sends sound waves through the area of the body being studied to create images of internal body structures. Echocardiograms are used to study the size, shape and motion of the heart.
The heart and vascular specialists at Houston Heart use echocardiograms to:
- Evaluate a heart murmur
- Diagnose valve conditions
- Find changes in the heart's structure
- Assess motion of the chamber walls and damage to the heart muscle after a heart attack
- Assess how different parts of the heart work in people with chronic heart disease
- Determine if fluid is collecting around the heart
- Identify growths in the heart
- Assess and monitor birth defects
- Test blood flow through the heart
- Assess heart or major blood vessel damage caused by trauma
- Test heart function and diagnose heart and lung problems in those who are very ill
- Assess chest pain
- Look for blood clots within heart chambers
During the standard echocardiogram, called a transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE), a small, hand-held device called a transducer is pressed against your skin. The transducer sends sound waves toward your heart. The sound waves are then reflected back to the device. The waves are converted into electrical impulses. These impulses become an image on the screen and are captured as moving or still pictures.
In addition to the standard test, there are specialized echocardiograms:
- Contrast echocardiogram – a solution, injected into the vein, can be seen in the heart
- Stress echocardiogram – records the heart's activity during a cardiac stress test
- Echocardiogram with Doppler ultrasound – helps your physician assess blood flow
- Transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) – the transducer is inserted down the throat into the esophagus, avoiding interference from the lungs and chest, providing a clearer picture.
This is also called ambulatory cardiac monitoring. Holter monitoring is when a small device that is attached to electrodes on your chest, is strapped to you for a period of time. Some devices require you to keep a log of the things you are doing throughout your day and some more advanced monitors allow you to press a button each time you have an unusual or abnormal symptom that you want to record the time. Most monitoring is done for a period of 24-48 hours.
This non-invasive test uses ultrasound (high frequency sound waves) to look at blood vessels and blood flow. Doppler ultrasounds are performed by a trained sonographer.
Doppler ultrasounds are very helpful in a wide array of diagnosis such as:
- Blocked or narrowed arteries
- Blood clots
- Congenital heart disease
- Heart valve defects
- Venous insufficiency
Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA)
An MRA is test that images the vascular system using magnetism and radio waves to produce high resolution, three-dimensional images of the blood vessels within the body. Unlike CTA, MRA may or may not require the use of an IV contrast agent. And whereas CRAs involve exposure to radiation, MRAs do not.
Most patients undergo CTA and MRA procedures without being admitted to a hospital. Based on the results of the test, your physician may recommend treatments ranging from medications and lifestyle changes to procedures such as stenting, angioplasty or coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery.
Positron emission tomography (PET) scan
A PET scan uses radioactive drug tracers and imaging (very similar to a CT machine) to reveal how your tissues and organs are functioning and look for disease processes or conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and brain disorders.
Specific to heart disease, PET scans can show decreased blood flow in the heart which could be caused by blocked or clogged arteries.
Tilt table test
This test is performed when you have had signs and symptoms of unexplained dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting. The doctor is trying to determine if your symptoms are caused by your heart rate or blood pressure.
You will lie flat on your back on an exam table. You will have electrodes placed on your chest, legs, and arms while an EKG machine monitors your heart rate and rhythm. You will also have a blood pressure monitor on during the duration of the test. You will have an IV placed in case medication is needed during or after the procedure.
You will slowly be moved into a more vertical position for a period of time designated by your physician. Your symptoms will be monitored during this time. Once symptoms or fainting is noted you are put back in the upright position until your heart rate and blood pressure normalize. You can return to normal activities after this test is complete.
A transesophageal echo, also known as a TEE test, is similar a type of echo. Your physician will use an endoscope to guide an ultrasound transducer down the esophagus to the heart. This is the best way for the physician to be able to see the heart without ribs and lungs obstructing the view. Typically a regular echo has been performed first and may also go in tandem with a doppler ultrasound to see how the blood is flowing through your heart valves.