Identifying heart conditions.
The diagnostic tests in cardiology are methods of identifying heart conditions associated with healthy vs. unhealthy, pathologic, heart function.
Obtaining a medical history is always the first "test", part of understanding the likelihood of significant disease, as detectable within the current limitations of clinical medicine. Yet heart problems often produce no symptoms until very advanced, and many symptoms, such as palpitations and sensations of extra or missing heart beats correlate poorly with relative heart health vs disease. Hence, a history alone is rarely sufficient to diagnose a heart condition.
Auscultation employs a stethoscope to more easily hear various normal and abnormal sounds, such as normal heart beat sounds and the usual heart beat sound changes associated with breathing versus heart murmurs.
A variety of blood tests are available for analyzing cholesterol transport behavior, HDL, LDL, triglycerides, lipoprotein little a, homocysteine, C-reactive protein, blood sugar control: fasting, after eating or averages using glycosylated albumen or hemoglobin, myoglobin, creatine kinase, troponin, brain-type natriuretic peptide, etc. to assess the evolution of coronary artery disease and evidence of existing damage. A great many more physiologic markers related to atherosclerosis and heart function are used and being developed and evaluated in research.
Electrocardiography (ECG/EKG in German vernacular. Elektrokardiogram) monitors electrical activity of the heart, primarily as recorded from the skin surface. A 12 lead recording, recording the electrical activity in three planes, anterior, posterior, and lateral is the most commonly used form. The ECG allows observation of the heart electrical activity by visualizing waveform beat origin (typically from the sinoatrial or SA node) following down the bundle of HIS and ultimately stimulating the ventricles to contract forcing blood through the body. Much can be learned by observing the QRS morphology (named for the respective portions of the polarization/repolarization waveform of the wave, P,Q,R,S,T wave). Rhythm abnormalities can also be visualized as in slow heart rate bradycardia, or fast heart rate tachycardia.
Cardiac Stress Testing
Cardiac stress testing is used to determine to assess cardiac function and to disclose evidence of exertion-related cardiac hypoxia. Radionuclide testing using thallium or technetium can be used tos of perfusion abnormalities. With a maximal stress test the level of exercise is increased until the patient heart rate will not increase any higher, despite increased exercise. A fairly accurate estimate of the target heart rate, based on extensive clinical research, can be estimated by the formula 220 beats per minute minus patient's age. This linear relation is accurate up to about age 30, after which it mildly underestimates typical maximum attainable heart rates achievable by healthy individuals. Other formulas exist, such as that by Miller (217 - (0.85 × Age)) and others. Achieving a high enough heart rate at the end of exercise is critical to improving the sensitivity of the test to detect high grade heart artery stenosis.