Heart Scans and Tests

Diagnosing heart diseases when they’re in the early stages is vital to effective treatment. Our dedicated specialists treat adults and children with simple and complex conditions at our innovative, ground-breaking heart and lung centre.

We provide a wide range of tests and scans to aid diagnosis for a whole host of heart conditions. These include:

24-hour blood pressure monitor

In order to get an accurate picture, our specialists may need to monitor your blood pressure over a 24-hour period. In this case, you’ll be asked to wear a cuff around your arm that’s attached to a small monitor worn on a belt. The cuff will inflate every half an hour during the day and every hour in the night, taking readings each time. You will then return the monitor to the hospital so the data can be transferred to your medical records.

Echocardiogram (including stress echo and transoesophageal echo)

An echocardiogram allows our heart specialists to understand the exact size of your heart and how well the valves are functioning at diagnosis, treatment and aftercare stages. You will be asked to remove your clothes from the waist up and lie on an echo bed. We will then secure small electrode patches to your chest, which are attached to a machine that records the echoes of sound waves reflected by your heart. The test can take between 15 minutes and one hour.

A transoesophageal echo (TOE) is used for the same reason but unlike a standard echo a very thin tube, attached to a transducer, is passed down the throat into the oesophagus. Because this part of your body is so close to the heart, very clear images can be created.

Electrocardiogram (ECG)

An electrocardiogram (or ECG) is used to show how fast your heart beats, whether your heartbeat is regular or not, and the strength and frequency of the electrical signals. You will be asked to remove your clothes and lie on a bed so our specialists can secure small pads to your chest, arms and legs. These electrodes send signals to a machine which records the heart’s electrical activity on a graph. The test only takes around 10 minutes to complete.

24-hour, 48-hour and 72-hour holter monitoring (ECG tape)

When understanding how well the heart is functioning, it’s important to understand how its activity changes when at rest and when going about normal daily activities. A holter monitor (or an ECG tape) is a small, battery-operated unit that is worn around the waist or over the shoulder continuously for 24, 48 or 72 hours and records the heart’s activity. Our heart consultants use this simple test to check for an irregular heartbeat, to identify palpitations or heart flutters, to evaluate a pacemaker or effectiveness of medication, and other similar reasons.

Transtelephonic event recorders (King of Hearts)

At the Royal Brompton and Harefield Hospitals, we use transtelephonic event recorders to electronically capture the heart’s activity and understand various heart conditions. It is often used to diagnose and understand atrial fibrillation and tachycardia. One type is used by placing the monitor over the heart and pressing a button; the data is transmitted to our receiving centre via the telephone. The other is worn continuously to identify symptoms that are difficult to diagnose.

Single and dual chamber pacemaker and defibrillator follow-up (pacing check)

Ongoing care for all our heart patients is key to our values. When we fit a single or dual chamber pacemaker, we will usually take a chest X-Ray immediately to assess the position of the pacemaker. We will then carry out routine follow-ups, or pacing checks, every two, three or six months, or on a more regular basis if required. This allows your consultant to understand the condition of your heart and whether it’s being correctly assisted by your pacemaker.

MVO2 max

This test is used to understand the volume of oxygen your heart is able to deliver to your muscles during continued activity. Understanding your VO2Max score will allow our specialists to get a true measure of your heart’s stamina. The test is simple. Just as with an ECG, small electrodes are stuck to your chest and a small clip-on monitor is placed on the end of your finger. Next, your nose will be closed using a padded clip and you will be asked to walk on a treadmill or pedal on an exercise bike while breathing into a tube.

Imaging Tests

Consultants at RBHH provide a range of imaging tests to build a more detailed picture of your heart and lungs.

  • Chest X-Ray: A chest x –ray is just like a normal x-ray and allows us to get a picture of your lungs, heart, large arteries, ribs and diaphragm. You will be asked to hold your breath during the x-ray and most often two will be taken.
  • Computed Tomography (CT  scan): A CT scan is a special imaging test that allows us to build detailed pictures  of your heart and lungs. You will lie on a bed as it moves through a scanner and will be asked to hold your breath whilst the scan is taken.

  • CMR: A CMR scan provides detailed images of the heart function and structure, by using strong magnetic and radio waves. You will lie on a bed as it moves through the scanner. You will be asked to keep still and to hold your breath during the scan.
  • Nuclear Medicine: Nuclear medicine can be used in the diagnosis of heart or lung conditions by injecting a special substance with radioactive properties into the blood. Known as a ‘tracer’ this substance helps to  highlight the part of the body being scanned.
  • Exercise stress echocardiography: This test can be used to evaluate how your heart copes with stress.  You will first undergo a standard echo so our specialists can obtain a clear picture of how your heart works when resting. Next, you’ll be asked to exercise using a treadmill or bicycle, to raise your heart rate, before the echo test is performed again.

Complementary Services

Effective treatment of heart and lung conditions requires a multidisciplinary approach. Here’s an example of the additional services we provide to accelerate and enhance recovery.

Diet and Nutrition Advice: Our expert dieticians will work with you to create tailored plans for weight loss, managing food allergies and simple  ways to make essential, effective diet and lifestyle changes that complement your treatment and therapy.

  • Physiotherapy: Our highly physiotherapists work alongside dieticians, consultants and therapists to ensure your physical wellbeing is looked after. Physiotherapy  services include exercise regimes, breathing exercises, airway clearance, pain management and rehabilitation programmes.
  • Psychology: Our psychologists offer a range of therapies to treat psychological problems associated with long term or acute illness. There is strong evidence from research studies linking effective treatment of mental health conditions with significantly improved physical health outcomes.

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