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Heart Failure Preparation & Management

Daignosing Heart Failure Building a Team Optimal Medicine Therapy Minimally Invasive Surgery Invasive Surgery Recovery
Diagnosing A Heart Condition Building A Team Optimal Medicine Therapy Minimally Invasive Surgery Invasive Surgery Recovery

Diagnosing A Heart Condition

Diagnosing Heart Failure

Since there are different stages, classifications, symptoms, and treatments for Heart Failure, proper diagnosis is imperative. No matter what a patients symptoms might be, diagnosis of Heart Failure should include a thorough medical history and thorough family history.

Upon completion of a thorough physical examination, medical and family history, a patient will then be directed to several different tests and procedures to insure proper diagnosis. These tests may include Blood Tests, Urine Tests, a Chest X-ray, an Echocardiogram, an Electrocardiogram, Coronary Catheterization (Angiogram), MRI, Nuclear Scan, and Ejection Fraction analysis. The following is a brief explanation of what to expect during diagnosis:

Before your first appointment, gather all of your medical records, including any medical records of your family’s. Find out if Heart Failure or heart conditions of any kind have been present in your family. Your physician will want a complete family history.

Blood tests, urine tests, and chest X-rays are relatively self-explanatory. Blood tests involve blood being drawn from any number of prominent veins in your body but generally the inside of your arm at the elbow, or from the top of your hands, if the veins in your arm are too small. Urine tests and chest X-rays are done in your physician’s office, but will need to be sent to a lab for analysis. These may require a couple of office visits and are the onset of diagnosing heart failure.

Once these tests are completed, a HF patient might need to undergo a series of other tests to determine the exact location and extent of the problem to help determine the treatment.

An Echocardiogram is an ultrasound that shows a picture of the heart’s movements and helps identify Systolic Heart Failure from Diastolic Heart Failure (See Glossary). It shows the heart’s four chambers and the heart valves. This test is administered to evaluate the overall performance of the heart. The patient feels no discomfort, as this test is non-invasive.

An Electrocardiogram (EKG) is a test that measures the electrical activity in the heart. This test is also non-invasive. EKGs are the machines that are frequently shown on Medical Drama TV shows (SEE Figure 1). Electrical sensor devices are taped in strategic positions on the body’s surface to help evaluate the status of heart movement.

Figure 1
Figure 1

A coronary Catheterization or Angiogram is a radiographic picture that shows the anatomy of arteries. A radioopaque dye is inserted into the artery through a catheter placed in the arm or groin.

A MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) uses powerful magnetic fields to create images of tissues and organs. During an MRI the patient is laid flat on their back and placed in a human sized tunnel with earphones (to drown out the loud noise, but there is no discomfort or physical stress associated with the test)) and instructed to lie perfectly still. An average MRI takes approximately 30-90 minutes, depending on the area of the body being imaged. A patient that has any metal from previous surgical procedures (As placement of pins or shrapnel) in their system should not take an MRI.

A Nuclear Scan (referred to as SPECT-Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography) involves a gamma camera rotating around the patient. The camera takes pictures from many angles that are then computed to form a cross-section image. This is a non-invasive test.
Ejection Fraction is the amount of blood that is pumped out of the right and left ventricles during a breathing cycle. Generally 70 percent of the blood is pumped out during a normal heart’s breathing cycle. In a person experiencing Heart Failure, the amount of blood exiting the ventricle can drop substantially. Ejection fraction may be determined by an echocardiogram, electrocardiogram (EKG), or a MRI.

If during any of these procedures you don’t understand what is happening; ask questions. Medical professionals would rather you ask questions than be nervous during your tests. They are there to make you feel as comfortable as possible.

Upon completion of these tests, the next step in handling Heart Failure is understanding the risks and benefits of all treatment options.

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. The Heart Failure Center does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The contents of The Heart Failure Center Site ("Content") are for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or any symptoms you may have. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.

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