Cardiac Diagnostic Tests

New and advanced diagnostic tests and tools are constantly being introduced to further understand the complexity of disease, injury, and congenital or acquired abnormalities.

Below is a list of diagnostic tests that have been used/are being used to further understand and identify cardiovascular disease. For additional information, please use the links on the left.

For more specific information, please consult your cardiologist or physician.

  • Arrhythmias
  • Nuclear Medicine
  • Non-Invasive Tests
  • Invasive Tests


  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)
    A test that records the electrical activity of the heart, shows abnormal rhythms (arrhythmias or dysrhythmias), and detects heart muscle damage.

  • Event Recorder
    A small, portable, battery-powered machine used by a patient to record ECG over a long period of time. Patients may keep the recorder for several weeks. Each time symptoms are experienced, the patient presses a button on the recorder to record the ECG sample. As soon as possible, this sample is transmitted to the physician's office by telephone hookup for evaluation.
  • Holter Monitor
    A small, portable, battery-powered ECG machine worn by a patient to record heartbeats on tape over a period of 24 to 48 hours - during normal activities. At the end of the time period, the monitor is returned to the physician's office so the tape can be read and evaluated.

  • Signal Average Electrocardiogram (SAE)
    A test that is much like an ECG, but takes longer because it records more information.

  • Stress Test (usually with ECG; also called treadmill or exercise ECG)
    A test that is given while a patient walks on a treadmill or pedals a stationary bike to monitor the heart during exercise. Breathing and blood pressure rates are also monitored. A stress test may be used to detect coronary artery disease, and/or to determine safe levels of exercise following a heart attack or heart surgery.

  • Tilt Table Test
    A test performed while the patient is connected to ECG and blood pressure monitors and strapped to a table that tilts the patient from a lying to standing position. This test is to determine if the patient is prone to sudden drops in blood pressure or slow pulse rates.

Nuclear Medicine

  • Exercise Gated Blood Pool Scan, Exercise MUGA, or Exercise Radionuclide Angiography
    A nuclear scan to see how the heart wall moves and how much blood is expelled with each heartbeat, just after the patient has walked on a treadmill or ridden on a stationary bike.

  • Exercise Thallium Scan or Myocardial Perfusion Scan
    A nuclear scan given while the patient is exercising that may reveal areas of the heart muscle that are not getting enough blood.

  • MUGA Scans/Radionuclide Angiography (RNA) Scans

  • Persantine Thallium Scan or Myocardial Perfusion Scan
    A nuclear scan given to a patient who is unable to exercise to reveal areas of the heart muscle that are not getting enough blood.

  • PET F-18 FDG (Fluorodeoxyglucose) Scan
    A glucose scan sometimes done immediately after the PET scan to determine if heart muscle has permanent damage.
  • Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scan
    A nuclear scan that gives information about the flow of blood through the coronary arteries to the heart muscle.

  • Resting SPECT Thallium Scan or Myocardial Perfusion Scan
    A nuclear scan given while the patient is at rest that may reveal areas of the heart muscle that are not getting enough blood.

Non-Invasive Tests

  • Echocardiogram (also known as echo)
    A noninvasive test that uses sound waves to produce a study of the motion of the heart's chambers and valves. The echo sound waves create an image on the monitor as an ultrasound transducer is passed over the heart. 

  • Stress Cardiography

Invasive Tests

  • Cardiac Catheterization
    A test in which a small catheter (hollow tube) is guided through a vein or artery into the heart. Dye is given through the catheter, and moving x-ray pictures are made as the dye travels through the heart.

    This comprehensive test shows: narrowings in the arteries, outside heart size, inside chamber size, pumping ability of the heart, ability of the valves to open and close, as well as a measurement of the pressures within the heart chambers and arteries.
  • Coronary Arteriogram (or Angiogram)
    With this procedure, x-rays are taken after a contrast agent is injected into an artery - to locate the narrowing, occlusions, and other abnormalities of specific arteries.
  • Electrophysiology Study
    A test in which insulated electric catheters are placed inside the heart to study the heart's electrical system.

  • Transesophageal Echocardiogram (TEE)
    A test in which a small transducer is passed down the esophagus to provide a clearer image of heart structures.