If you have high blood pressure or if you experience occasional angina, shortness of breath, or pain in your left shoulder that radiates down your arm, your physician may refer you to a cardiac care center for further evaluation and treatment. If, however, your doctor determines that your condition is unstable, you will be advised to go to the nearest hospital. Here are some diagnostic tests that the cardiologist at the cardiac care center may recommend after he or she has evaluated your symptoms. 

Cardiac Sonography

Also known as an echocardiogram, cardiac sonography is an ultrasound of the heart and its surrounding structures. It can reveal abnormalities with the cardiac valves, abnormal rhythms, and pericardial effusions, which refers to the abnormal accumulation of fluid around the pericardium.

There are no special instructions that need to be followed before undergoing an echocardiogram, and there are no known adverse side effects to the test. It is considered extremely safe because ultrasound technology is one that relies on soundwaves instead of ionizing radiation to capture pictures of the cardiovascular system. Prior to your test, the echocardiographer will apply a clear gel to the area being assessed because the gel helps ensure that the captured images are clear and defined.

Cardiac Stress Test

During the cardiac stress test, you will be asked to walk on a treadmill while attached to strategically placed electrodes. While you are on the treadmill, the technician will increase the speed and incline of the treadmill while the activity of your heart is being monitored and recorded.

This test helps reveal cardiac abnormalities such as atrial fibrillation and poor organ perfusion. It may also help the cardiologist determine if one or more of your coronary arteries are blocked. Like the echocardiogram, the stress test is also considered safe, however, if you experience shortness of breath, dizziness, or chest pain while on the treadmill, tell the technician, who will turn off the treadmill and alert the cardiologist. If your cardiac stress test reveals abnormalities, the physician may recommend a more invasive test known as an angiogram to determine if you have blocked arteries. 

To learn more about an echocardiogram or a cardiac stress test, make an appointment with your primary care doctor. After a comprehensive physical examination, he or she will determine if these diagnostic cardiovascular tests are right for you. It is important to note that if you experience chest pain, difficulty breathing, or pain radiating down your left arm, you should call 911 so that you can be transported to the nearest hospital to rule out a heart attack or other cardiac abnormality.