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Electrocardiogram (ECG)

This test normally takes about 10 minutes to perform. It involves placing some sticky tabs on the skin of the chest and the arms and legs. The information gives a snapshot of the electrical activity in the heart. It can be used to diagnosis many different aspects of heart disease. It can be used to look at heart rhythm problems that may cause palpitations. It can look at signs of angina if they are occurring at the time when the ECG is being done. It can be used to look for signs of high blood pressure. These are only some to the reasons for doing and ECG and this still forms an integral part of diagnosis in heart disease.

Echocardiogram (Echo)

This test normally takes between 30 minutes to an hour depending on the complexity of the study. It involves placing a probe with some contact jelly on various points of the chest wall. Echocardiograms are a basic investigation designed to look at the structure and function of the heart . They give a lot of information on the pump function of the heart and the strength of contraction. There are usually four heart valves in the heart and they work as one-way valves. Echo can help to see if theses valves are leaking or narrowed.

24 hour ECGs and event recorders

This test normally takes 10 to 15 minutes to fit and can be worn for anywhere between a day to 7 days depending on the type of device. The devices use sticky tabs similar to those used for an ECG (usually less of them), that stay attached to the skin for the duration of the test. The wires to the device can be worn discreetly under clothing. The device itself is about the size of an iPhone. This test is used to track and recorder the heart 's ECG tracing. If a patient experiences symptoms (fainting, dizziness or palpitations) when the device is attached then the cardiologist can understand if the heart may be the cause. It is important to fill in a diary of symptoms (and timing) when you have one of these tests. 

Ambulatory 24 hour blood pressure monitors

This test normally takes 10 to 15 minutes to fit and is worn as the test suggests for 24 hours. The blood pressure cuff is worn round the arm in the same manner as when your doctor or nurse takes your blood pressure. It does take a little getting used to as the blood pressure is taken once every hour, night and day for 24 hours. The reason for doing this is to accurately document what the blood pressure does over that timeframe. Blood pressure can go up and down and many things affect a single reading. This is why in some patients it can be useful to accurately gauge a true reflection of their blood pressure control and avoid the so called 'white coat hypertension' (although really when was the last time so saw a doctor in a white coat?).

Exercise treadmill testing

This test will take about 45 minutes in total to perform. It involves acquiring a continuous ECG tracing and intermittent blood pressure readings, while the patient performs a period of graded exercise (for about 9 to 15 minutes). This requires a certain level of mobility and physical fitness. It is like running on a treadmill in the gym. The test is not definitive in diagnosing angina (heart pain due to narrowing of the heart blood vessels), but it still has a role in screening of cardiac conditions.

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