If you feel any of the symptoms I mentioned in my previous post about signs and symptoms of Arrhythmias, you should consult your cardiologist. Your cardiologist will conduct certain tests based on type of your problem. Here are some common tests used to diagnose Arrhythmias.
Electrocardiogram (also known as ECG or EKG) is a simple painless test to diagnose Arrhythmias. ECG will record your heart’s electrical activity and will help your cardiologist to understand about how your heart works.
With each heartbeat, your heart will spread an electrical signal from top of your heart to the bottom part, and as this electrical signal travels, it will cause the heart to contract and pump the blood to the body. This process will repeat with each heartbeat. This electrical signal will set the rhythm of the heartbeat. Electrocardiogram will record this electrical signals to determine the functioning of your heart.
The Electrocardiogram will help to determine the following
- How fast your heart is beating, the fastness and slowness of your heartbeat is directly related to Arrhythmias
- If the rhythm of your heartbeat is irregular, irregular heartbeats indicates Arrhythmias
- The strength and timing of electrical signals as they pass through each part of your heart
Apart from study Arrhythmias, ECG/EKG is also helpful to study other heart problems like heart attack and heart failure, the results of these tests can also suggest other potential disorders which might affect your heart.
Holter and Event Monitors
Holter and Event monitors are medical devices which are used to record the heart’s electrical activity. Most commonly cardiologists use these monitors to diagnose Arrhythmias. Apart from diagnosis, Holter and Event monitors are useful to check if treatments for arrhythmia is working.
Electrocardiogram records the heartbeat for a few seconds, so it has the limitation that it won’t be able to detect the heart rhythm problems that don’t occur during this test. While Holter and Event monitors are small, portable devices that you can wear during your normal daily routine activities and it will allow the monitor to record your heart for longer period of time compared to Electrocardiogram. This will help because certain heart rhythm problems occur only during certain activities like sleeping or doing exercise. Holter and Event monitors increase the chance of recording these problems.
Holter and Event monitors are doing the similar job but they are slightly different, a Holter monitor records your heart’s electrical activities all the time you wear it, while Event monitor will record your heart’s electrical activity only at certain times while you are wearing it.
Stress test will provide information on how your heart functions during physical stress. Certain heart problems are easier to catch while your heart is stressed out, working heart and beating fast due to physical activities. During stress test you have to exercise to make your heart work harder and to beat faster, these test will be done while you are exercising.
In case of medical complications you aren’t able to exercise, doctors will give you certain medicines to make your heart work hard. This is called pharmacological stress test.
Echocardiogram or Echocardiography or Echo is a method which uses sound waves to create moving pictures of your heart. These pictures will show accurate size and shape of your heart and will also indicate how well your heart chambers and valves are working. Echo can also pinpoint areas of heart muscle that aren’t contracting well because of poor blood flow or injury from a previous heart attack. A type of echo called Doppler ultrasound shows how well blood flows through your heart’s chambers and valves.
Echo will help to detect possible blood clots inside the heart, fluid buildup in pericardium (the sac around the heart) and problems with the aorta (the main artery that carries oxygen rich blood from your heart to body).
Cardiac Catheterization is a medical process to diagnose and treat some heart problems. A long, thin and flexible tube called catheter will be put into blood vessel arm, thigh or neck and threaded to your heart. Through the catheter you cardiologist can do the diagnostic tests and treatments of your heart.
Let’s dig this further, in this case your doctor may put some special type of dye in catheter and via blood this dye will reach to your heart. This dye will make your arteries and other part of your heart available in the pictures. It will also show up plaque build up in your coronary arteries.
The Electrophysiology study or EP study is a special catheterization test in which electrode catheters (flexible, insulated wires with metal electrode tips) are inserted in to the heart in order to study the cardiac electrical system. The cardiac electrical system is important, because it controls the heart rhythm and because abnormalities in the electrical system are responsible for most heart arrhythmias.
The tilt table test is a simple test that can help to diagnose the causes of fainting. As it name indicates, the tilt table test involves placing a patient on a table with foot support, then tilting the table upward. The tilt table may start off in a horizontal position and be tilted by degrees to a completely vertical position. The patient’s blood pressure, pulse and symptoms are monitored throughout the test.
These are the common methods used to diagnose Arrhythmias or irregular heartbeats or heart rate. These are the methods available to identify cause and treat Arrhythmias but your cardiologist will be the one to decide which method to use in which condition.