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  Sep 30, 2018

Diagnosing Atherosclerosis

Doctors have an arsenal of diagnostic tests and tools they can access to confirm the presence of Atherosclerosis - these include an angiogram (Arteriogram), cholesterol tests, a chest x-ray, a CT (computed tomography) scan, Duplex scanning, an echocardiogram, an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG), an exercise stress test (cardiac stress test), an intravascular ultrasound, an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan, a PET (positron emission tomography) scan and a pharmacologic stress test.

Blood Tests - blood tests check the levels of certain fats, cholesterol, sugar, and proteins in your blood and abnormal levels may indicate risk factors for atherosclerosis.

EKG (Electrocardiogram) - an EKG is a simple test that detects and records the electrical activity of the heart and shows how fast the heart is beating and whether it has a regular rhythm. It also shows the strength and timing of electrical signals as they pass through each part of the heart. Certain electrical patterns that the EKG detects can suggest whether CAD is likely. An EKG also can show signs of a previous or current heart attack.

Chest X Ray - a chest x ray takes a picture of the organs and structures inside the chest, including the heart, lungs, and blood vessels - a chest x ray can also reveal signs of heart failure.

Ankle/Brachial Index - this test compares the blood pressure in your ankle with the blood pressure in your arm to see how well your blood is flowing. This test can help diagnose PAD.

Echocardiography - this test uses sound waves to create a moving picture of your heart and provides information about the size and shape of your heart and how well your heart chambers and valves are working. The test also can identify areas of poor blood flow to the heart, areas of heart muscle that aren't contracting normally, and previous injury to the heart muscle caused by poor blood flow.

Computed Tomography Scan - a computed tomography, or CT, scan creates computer-generated images of the heart, brain, or other areas of the body. The test can often show hardening and narrowing of large arteries.

Stress Testing - during stress testing, exercise is used to make the heart work hard and beat fast while heart tests are performed - if a person is unable to exercise, medicines are given to speed up the heart rate. When the heart is beating fast and working hard, it needs more blood and oxygen and arteries narrowed by plaque cannot supply enough oxygen-rich blood to meet the heart's needs - a stress test can show possible signs of CAD, such as:

  • Abnormal changes in the heart rate or blood pressure
  • Symptoms such as shortness of breath or chest pain
  • Abnormal changes in your heart rhythm or your heart's electrical activity

During a stress test, if a person is unable to exercise for as long as is considered normal for their age, it may be a sign that not enough blood is flowing to the heart. - but other factors besides CAD can prevent a person from exercising long enough (for example, lung diseases, anaemia, or poor general fitness).

Some stress tests use a radioactive dye, sound waves, positron emission tomography (PET), or cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to take pictures of your heart when it's working hard and when it's at rest. - these imaging stress tests can show how well blood is flowing in the different parts of the heart and can also can show how well the heart pumps blood when it beats.

Angiography - angiography is a test that uses dye and special x -rays to show the insides of arteries and can reveal whether plaque is blocking the arteries and how severe the plaque is. A thin, flexible tube called a catheter is put into a blood vessel in the arm, groin (upper thigh), or neck. A dye that can be seen on x -ray is then injected into the arteries and by looking at the x-ray picture, a doctor can see the flow of blood through the arteries.