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What to Expect During a Cardiology Exam



There are a few reasons why your primary care physician may decide to refer you to a cardiologist. One reason you may be referred to is that your primary care doctor feels certain factors are putting you at an increased risk of a stroke or heart attack. Another typical reason is that your medications and lifestyle adaptations are not succeeding in the treatment of these risks.

Cardiologists are physicians who have spent several years in medical school becoming trained to assist patients in the treatment of their heart, arteries, or veins. These doctors have a range of tools specified to test patients’ hearts, from stress systems and EKG machines to refurbished used operating room equipment. Before your visit, prepare by doing the following:

Health History List: The physician will have inquiries about both your health and the history of your family. Prepare in advance and have this information compiled into a list. This will visit move along more smoothly.

Testing and Medication List: Compile a list of the recent tests you have had performed, along with the detailed results. You should also write down a list of the medications you are taking, including the dosage — the more information you can provide to your cardiologist, the better.

Additional Information/Questions:  Write down notes about the symptoms you are experiencing in detail. Don’t be afraid to share this information with your cardiologist. Feel free to compose a list of questions you have for the doctor. While patients are in front of their doctor on the medical exam tables, this is the time to get those nagging questions answered!

Your cardiologist may decide you need further testing to learn more about your condition. Specialized cardiology equipment, combined with a variety of non-invasive tests, may help your doctor understand how the heart and veins are performing. Some of these diagnostic tests include:

Stress Testing: This test, which takes place on a treadmill, is likely administered if your doctor suspects the likelihood of blockages in the arteries. A stress test places an increased load on your heart while monitoring the function. It allows the doctor to see if the heart muscle is receiving enough blood, and if valves are working correctly.

Echocardiogram: This noninvasive test uses sound waves to generate a picture of the heart. The doctors can evaluate the detailed view, looking thoroughly at the vessels and chambers.  Through the evaluation, the cardiologist is given the ability to identify deformities of the valves, the heart’s pumping power, and the blood flow.

Computerized Tomography Angiography: Also known as a CT angiography, this exam uses X-rays in combination with computers to generate images of the blood and its vessels. A CT angiography can assist with the assessment of the heart, brain, or blood vessels moving through the body’s arterial systems. This test involves the injection of a dye into a vein that flows through the bloodstream.  At this time, x-ray images are taken to showcase the vessels and blockages, if they exist.

Magnetic Resonance Angiogram:  Often called an MRA, this assists with the diagnosis of blood vessel problems. The test itself is administered in a specialized laboratory where the patient is asked to change into a gown and lie on a table. The table is slid into an empty chamber, and the patient is exposed to painless testing of the blood vessels and arteries. The images provide a precise assessment of any blockages.

Remember, don’t withhold any information from your cardiologist, and feel free to ask any questions on your mind (no matter how silly you think they maybe). The more open you are, the better your experience and outcome will be.