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Diagnosing Heart Arrhythmias

Your physician may suspect a heart arrhythmia, if you have experienced a premature beat that feels like a skipped heart beat or a series of premature beats that gives a fluttering sensation in your chest area.

Additional symptoms can also include, fatigue, dizziness, light headedness, fainting (syncope) or near-fainting spell, rapid heartbeat or pounding, shortness of breath, and chest pain. Your physician may order a number of the following tests to diagnose your heart arrhythmia.

Image of the test results for an abnormal heartbeat

Electrophysiology Study (EPS)

An electrophysiology study is an invasive procedure that helps your physician understand the nature of your heart rhythm disturbances. This procedure allows your physician to see where the arrhythmia is coming from, how medication is working, and what type of further treatment is necessary.

During the procedure, your doctor will guide a specialized long narrow plastic tube, or catheter into your blood vessel. Small electric pulses are sent through the catheter, which allows your doctor to understand the electrical patterns of your heart.

Loop Recorder
Also known as an insertable cardiac monitor is a small deceive that is implanted just under the skin of the chest to record the heart's rhythm. This recording will allow your physician to understand your heart beat and diagnosis the severity of your arrhythmia.

Non-Invasive Tests

Your cardiologists can also order non-invasive cardiac testing that help understand your heart's rhythm. Tests may include:

Electrocardiogram also called ECG or EKG is a quick and painless test that shows the electrical activity of the heart. This test records the electrical impulses that trigger the beating of your heart.

Exercise Treadmill Test (non-imaging) is an exercise test that monitors the heart rate and rhythm over a period of time, while you are walking on a treadmill. During exercise treadmill testing your heart rhythm, heart rate, and blood pressure are monitored to identify possible coronary artery disease, abnormal heart rhythms, effectiveness of your heart treatment plan, and/or assist your doctor in developing a safe and adequate exercise plan for you.

Holter Monitor Test is a small, portable heart monitor worn around the waist area that monitors heart rhythms over an extended period of time (typically 24 hours). During the duration of wearing the heart monitor device all of your heartbeats are recorded to analyze for abnormalities. This test helps with identifying heart rhythm disturbances that are unusual and that may not be identified in a standard EKG test.

During stress testing your heart rate, heart rhythm, and blood pressure are monitored. A stress test procedure gives your doctor valuable information about your heart during physical activity that may not be identifiable at rest.

Nuclear Stress Test
Also referred to as a myocardial perfusion imaging (MPI) test, this imaging test shows how blood flows into the heart muscle. This can show effects of narrowed arteries and blockages as well as any previous heart attacks or cardiac interventions. Your physician is also able to see how the heart wall moves during MPI. A small amount of radioactive tracer is injected into a vein. A gamma camera then detects the radiation released by the radioactive tracer in order to produce images of the heart. This test is done in conjunction with an exercise treadmill test or chemical stress test for individuals who are unable to handle moderate physical activity.

Stress Echocardiogram
Also known as a stress echo, is a procedure that evaluates the function of your heart and valves with physical activity. This is done by stressing the heart with strenuous exercise over a period of time on a treadmill or by medications to increase the heart workload. Then echocardiogram images are taken in order to compare images taken at rest.

Tilt Table Test is a procedure used to identify the cause of your unexplained fainting. During this test a patient will begin by lying flat on a table that is then tilted at an upright position over a period of time up to 45 minutes. During this procedure your heart rate and blood pressure are monitored that provides information on your body's cardiovascular response with the change in position from lying flat to an upright position.