Noninvasive Cardiovascular Imaging
At the UCI Health Cardiovascular Center, our heart specialists use state-of-the-art diagnostic tools, including a complete spectrum of noninvasive cardiovascular imaging services. Having the latest technology to detect heart disease allows our cardiologists to discover potential problems at the earliest stages.
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Once a diagnosis has been made, these diagnostic tools also help our cardiologists to expertly manage the care of patients with suspected or known heart conditions.
Our test and imaging capabilities include:
EKGs are tests that use electrodes affixed to the legs, arms and chest to record the heart’s electrical signals.
Exercise stress test
Patients connected to an EKG machine walk or run on a treadmill to speed their heart rates. The test results show whether there is an adequate blood flow to the heart during exercise. These tests are valuable tools in the detection of coronary artery disease and angina (severe chest pain).
The UCI Health echocardiography laboratory is among the region’s best. Equipped with high-performance systems, it includes M mode and two-dimensional ultrasound. Our cardiologists have special expertise in the use of Doppler exams and stress-echocardiography. We also are at the forefront of cardiac research, including contrast echocardiography to improve diagnostic accuracy.
Transesophageal echocardiography (TEE)
Our cardiologists are leaders in transesophageal echocardiography, which involves transmitting high frequency sound waves to the heart with a transducer passed down the throat into the esophagus. This test allows the physician to examine the back of the heart and other cardiac structures in great detail. It is especially valuable for patients whose hearts are difficult to examine because of excess weight or other factors.
Thallium stress test
A thallium stress test—also called a myocardial perfusion scan—evaluates blocked or narrowed coronary arteries, blood circulation to cardiac structures and damaged or dead tissue in the heart muscle. The patient receives an injection of a small amount of 210- thallium or other radioisotope then tested during exercise and at rest. Those who cannot pedal a stationary bike are given a medication called dobutamine, which simulates the effects of exercise. Our nuclear medicine specialists use a leading-edge dual-head SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) camera to record the heart’s function.
The multiple-gated acquisition (MUGA) scan evaluates the heart’s pumping ability. Patients are injected with a radioisotope such as 99mTc-sestamibi. The scan is completed using a dual-head SPECT camera.
Our 64-slice CT scanner produces high-resolution, three-dimensional images of the moving heart and adjacent vascular structures to determine if fatty or calcium deposits (plaque) are present in the coronary arteries. The level of detail is comparable to cardiac catheterization, another method of evaluating narrowed or blocked arteries.
We also offer cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a noninvasive way to evaluate the viability of the heart muscle and coronary arteries using a magnetic field instead of radiation. Its 3-D images can show the extent of damage from heart disease, the flow of blood throughout the heart, the buildup of plaque as well as blockages in blood vessels.
Employing small amounts of a radioactive agent, PET scans provide highly accurate data about blood flow to cardiac structures. These tests can indicate whether areas of decreased cardiac function are the result of scarring due to a heart attack.
PET/CT scans combine anatomical and metabolic information. The resulting 3-D pictures are so precise they make it possible for physicians to perform complex heart exams without catheterization.