Electrocardiogram (ECG)

This simple, painless test takes a few minutes to perform. It turns the normal electrical activity of the heart into a tracing and this can reveal a number of different cardiac conditions which affect the structure and rhythm of the heart. As it is only a single brief snapshot of the heartbeat at rest a normal ECG does not necessarily exclude important disease of the heart but it is a good start.

Exercise Tolerance Test (ETT)

This is a key test to assess angina but is often also used to ‘screen’ patients with no symptoms at all for early signs of coronary heart disease. A continuous ECG is taken whilst you undergo a graded standardised exercise on a treadmill. The test starts at a leisurely pace and gradually the speed and gradient increase every three minutes.Patients with angina will typically experience symptoms and this is associated with characteristic changes to the shape of the ECG. If you are on medication it is important to ask your doctor or one of our team if you should withhold your medication on the day of your test.

Stress Echocardiography (stress echo)

Even in patients with severe narrowing of the hearts arteries (coronary artery disease) the echocardiogram at rest may be completely normal. In this situation however under the stress of exercise the function of the heart can become abnormal in areas of the heart where there is a problem with blood flow. Stress echo uses this fact to help us diagnose and treat coronary artery disease and may be used as an alternative to an exercise test or perfusion (thallium) scan. Following taking a detailed resting echocardiogram the heart is ‘stressed’ either by exercising you or with a special medicine injected into a small vein. The echocardiogram is then repeated and the images compared. The addition of echocardiography to the standard exercise tolerance test increases the accuracy of the investigation.
This test is extremely safe and you will usually only need to spend an hour or two in the hospital and go home on the same day.

Echocardiogram (echo)

Using the latest GE Vivid 7 echocardiography machines state of the art images can be obtained of the heart. Our sonogapher Steve White is one of New Zealand’s most experienced echocardiographic technicians performing more studies per year than any other individual in the country.Echocardiography uses ultrasound (same as is used to exam pregnant mothers) to image the heart. The patient is awake and is able to view the images on their own personal monitor if they wish. It is necessary to remove the top half of your clothing and the study takes about half an hour.

Key Benefits

  • Detect problems with the heart valves
  • Detect congenital heart disease
  • Give information about the size and function of the heart chambers (ventricles)

Trans-oesophageal echocardiography (T.O.E.)

Usually a standard echocardiogram is detailed enough to give all the information about the heart we require. Sometimes however, particularly in patients with a problem with one of the heart valves, we need to get really detailed pictures of the heart and this can be done by passing a narrow flexible tube down your throat and gullet. The tube has a tiny echo sensor built into the tip and this generates extremely detailed pictures of the heart with no interference from the lungs and ribs. This procedure is often also performed during heart valve surgery to help guide the surgeon. This test is extremely safe and you will usually only need to spend a few hours in the hospital and go home on the same day. It requires a brief general anaesthetic.

24 Hour ECG Recording (‘Holter’)

Symptoms of palpitations or awareness of the heartbeat are extremely common but usually only occur occasionally. A simple resting ECG will often not ‘catch’ the rhythm of the heart whilst the patient has symptoms. In this situation we will often suggest the fitting of a 24-hour ECG recorder. This lightweight device (about the size of a small iPOD) records the heartbeat continuously for 24 hours and provides valuable information about the basic rhythm of the heart as well as the rhythm at the time of symptoms. Sometimes palpitation symptoms are very elusive and typically disappear for the 24 hours of recording! In this situation a longer period of recording (’7-day event recorder’) or the supply of small device you carry with you and activate at the time of symptoms (‘event recorder’) may be recommended.

Cardiac Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Is a safe, noninvasive test that creates detailed pictures of your organs and tissues. "Noninvasive" means that no surgery is done and no instruments are inserted into your body.

MRI uses radio waves, magnets, and a computer to create pictures of your organs and tissues. Unlike other imaging tests, MRI doesn't use ionizing radiation or carry any risk of causing cancer.

Cardiac MRI creates both still and moving pictures of your heart and major blood vessels. Doctors use cardiac MRI to get pictures of the beating heart and to look at its structure and function. These pictures can help them decide the best way to treat people who have heart problems.

Cardiac MRI is a common test. It's used to diagnose and assess many diseases and conditions.

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