What can a heart scan detect?

Posted in by Echelon Health

Healthy Heart

A number of different medical tests can be used to  assess your heart condition and identify the best way to treat it.

Blood tests

When your heart muscle has been damaged, as in a heart attack, your body releases substances in your blood. Blood tests can measure the substances and show if, and how much of, your heart muscle has been damaged. Blood tests are also done to measure the level of other substances in your blood, such as blood lipids  (e.g. cholesterol and triglycerides), vitamins and minerals. Your blood sample is taken from a vein in your arm. A laboratory then tests it and sends the results to your doctor, who will explain the results to you.

Electrocardiogram (ECG)

An ECG reads your heart’s electrical impulses. It shows how well your heart is beating and to check its rhythm. Small sticky dots and wire leads are put on your chest and arms. The leads are attached to an ECG machine which records the electrical impulses and prints them out on paper. Your doctor may use an ECG to diagnose a heart attack or abnormal heart rhythms (called ‘arrhythmias’).

Exercise stress test

A stress test, sometimes called a ‘treadmill’ or ‘exercise’ test, is a type of ECG that is done while you are exercising. It helps your doctor to find out how well your heart works when you are physically active.

Echocardiogram (ultrasound)

An echocardiogram is a common test. It gives a picture of your heart using ultrasound, a type of sonar. It uses a probe either on your chest or down your oesophagus (throat). It helps your doctor check if there are any problems with your heart’s valves and chambers and see how strongly your heart pumps blood.

Coronary angiogram

A coronary angiogram, sometimes called ‘cardiac catheterisation’, may be done after a heart attack or angina. A catheter (a small tube) is put into an artery in your groin, arm or wrist. The catheter is moved up inside the artery until it reaches your heart. A special dye is injected into your coronary arteries and an X-ray is taken. The X-ray shows your doctor where and how much your coronary arteries are clogged or blocked. It also shows how well your heart is pumping. Coronary angiograms help your doctor decide the best treatment for you.

CT coronary angiogram

The advent of modern and advanced CT scanners has meant it is possible to ‘see’ inside the heart arteries in incredible detail with a simple and rapid CT scan.. The CT angiogram is increasingly used in advanced diagnostic units as a non-invasive alternative to the traditional invasive coronary angiogram. With an incredible resolution of just 0.3 mm it can determine the earliest signs of atherosclerosis and enable preventive measures to be put in place to prevent the furring up progressing or causing a heart attack.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

An MRI uses very strong magnets and radio waves to create detailed images of your heart on a computer. It can take still or moving pictures of your heart. Sometimes a special dye is used to make parts of the heart easier to see. This test shows your doctor the structure of your heart and how well it is working. It is not very good however in seeing the coronary arteries for which the CT coronary angiogram is far superior.

Not all conditions that lead to heart failure can be reversed, but treatments can improve the signs and symptoms of heart failure and help you live longer. Lifestyle changes — such as exercising, reducing salt (sodium) in your diet, managing stress, and losing weight — can improve your quality of life. One way to prevent heart failure is to prevent and control conditions that cause heart failure, such as coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, or obesity.

The above means of testing can detect heart conditions such as.

  • Arrhythmia – a heart rhythm abnormality.
  • Atherosclerosis  –  hardening of the coronary arteries.
  • Cardiomyopathy. This condition causes the heart’s muscles to harden or grow weak.
  • Congenital heart defects.
  • Coronary artery disease (CAD) – ‘furring’ up of the coronary arteries.
  • Heart infections.

Symptoms of  heart disease  may include:

  • Shortness of breath (dyspnoea) when you exert yourself or when you lie down
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Swelling (oedema) in your legs, ankles and feet
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Reduced ability to exercise
  • Persistent cough or wheezing with white or pink blood-tinged phlegm
  • Swelling of your abdomen (ascites)
  • Very rapid weight gain from fluid retention
  • Lack of appetite and nausea
  • Difficulty concentrating or decreased alertness
  • Sudden, severe shortness of breath and coughing up pink, foamy mucus
  • Chest pain if your heart failure is caused by a heart attack
  • Fainting or severe weakness
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat associated with shortness of breath, chest pain or fainting

Any of the following conditions can damage or weaken your heart and can cause heart failure. Some of these can be present without your knowing it:

  • Coronary artery disease and heart attack. Coronary artery disease is the most common form of heart disease and the most common cause of heart failure. The disease results from the build-up of fatty deposits (plaque) in your arteries, which reduce blood flow and can lead to heart attack.
  • High blood pressure (hypertension). If your blood pressure is high, your heart has to work harder than it should to circulate blood throughout your body. Over time, this extra exertion can make your heart muscle too stiff or too weak to effectively pump blood.
  • Faulty heart valves. The valves of your heart keep blood flowing in the proper direction through the heart. A damaged valve — due to a heart defect, coronary artery disease or heart infection — forces your heart to work harder, which can weaken it over time.
  • Damage to the heart muscle (cardiomyopathy). This can have many causes, including several diseases, infections, alcohol abuse and the toxic effect of drugs, such as cocaine or some drugs used for chemotherapy. Genetic factors also can play a role.
  • Myocarditis. Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle. It’s most commonly caused by a virus, including COVID-19, and can lead to left-sided heart failure.
  • Heart defects you are born with (congenital heart defects). If your heart and its chambers or valves have not formed correctly, the healthy parts of your heart have to work harder to pump blood through your heart, which, in turn, may lead to heart failure.
  • Abnormal heart rhythms (heart arrhythmias). Abnormal heart rhythms may cause your heart to beat too fast, creating extra work for your heart. A slow heartbeat also may lead to heart failure.
  • Other diseases. Chronic diseases — such as diabetes, HIV, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, or a buildup of iron (hemochromatosis) or protein (amyloidosis) — also may contribute to heart failure.

Risk factors for heart conditions:

  • High blood pressure. Your heart works harder than it has to if your blood pressure is high.
  • High cholesterol and triglyceride levels increase the risk of atherosclerosis.
  • Diabetes. Having diabetes increases your risk of high blood pressure and coronary artery disease.
  • Some diabetes medications. The diabetes drugs rosiglitazone (Avandia) and pioglitazone (Actos) have been found to increase the risk of heart failure in some people. However, you should not  stop taking these medications on your own, but discuss with your doctor whether you need to make any changes.
  • Certain medications. Some medications may lead to heart failure or heart problems. Medications that may increase the risk of heart problems include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs); certain anaesthesia medications; some anti-arrhythmic medications; certain medications used to treat high blood pressure, and a variety of other medications.
  • Sleep apnea. The inability to breathe properly while you sleep at night results in low blood oxygen levels and increased risk of abnormal heart rhythms. Both of these problems can weaken the heart.
  • Congenital heart defects. Some people who develop heart failure were born with structural heart defects.
  • Valvular heart disease. People with valvular heart disease have a higher risk of heart failure.
  • Viruses. A viral infection may have damaged your heart muscle.
  • Alcohol use. Drinking too much alcohol can weaken heart muscle and lead to heart failure.
  • Tobacco use. Using tobacco can increase your risk of heart failure.
  • Obesity. People who are obese have a higher risk of developing heart failure.
  • Irregular heartbeats. These abnormal rhythms, especially if they are very frequent and fast, can weaken the heart muscle and cause heart failure.

Echelon Health’s suite of extensive health assessment packages includes our much sought after Healthy Heart health assessment which checks on the  health of one of our body’s most vital organs. This assessment, which is completed in under an hour, will provide an unparalleled insight of your heart arteries and risk of coronary heart disease. It is ideal for those who have a family history of heart attack, have cardiac risk factors, or anyone generally concerned about the health of their heart.

It includes:

  • Medical Questionnaire
  • ECG
  • CT Heart
  • CT Coronary Angiogram
  • Summary of Results

Echelon Health’s scans and images are reviewed by up to seven of the most renowned radiologists in the country, all drawn from prestigious London teaching hospitals – as a client of Echelon Health, you can be completely confident in the accuracy of your results every time.

Please contact us for more information of learn more about our health assessments here

Sources

Heart Condition Diseases and Symptoms- https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-failure/symptoms-causes/syc-20373142

Cardiovascular diseases- https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/guide/diseases-cardiovascular

Lucy Holl