“Early diagnosis saves lives. Once, a firefighter came in for chest pain. When he saw me he shouted, ‘I know this doctor! Ten years ago he said I’d have some bad problems, but I never came back for a follow-up.’ We found a life-threatening tear in his aorta and fixed it. Thankfully, he’s alive and well — but he could have avoided a medical emergency altogether.”
We know it can be worrying when your doctor recommends images be taken to diagnose a heart condition (called cardiac imaging). However, recent advances in cardiac imaging help you get better care, faster. Our expert team works to give you an accurate diagnosis quickly, which means less worry, pain and time spent waiting for the right treatment. A timely heart disease diagnosis may even save your life.
The main objective of cardiac imaging is to diagnose coronary artery disease (CAD) and structural heart disease. These diseases affect the arteries, heart valves, heart muscle and other tissues in and around the heart. After diagnosis, we’ll connect you with our heart care team — some of the most experienced heart specialists in the region.
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Why Choose Us for Heart Imaging
- Expertise: Getting the right diagnosis the first time is all about expertise. Our team has decades of experience and performs about 20,000 imaging procedures every year.
- Personalized approach: We strive to have a doctor at each appointment, instead of an imaging technologist alone. Connecting with you helps us tailor our approach to your unique needs.
- Integrated care: If you need complex heart disease surgery, our imaging experts will be at your side. Our imaging specialists work with surgeons as a team to ensure excellent surgical results, so you get home safer, sooner.
- Echo accredited: For nearly a decade, we’ve been certified as experts in echocardiography (heart ultrasound) by the Intersocietal Accreditation Commission (IAC-Echo).
- Always improving: We’re constantly working to make our services even better for our patients. We have team improvement meetings both quarterly and monthly.
- Training the next generation: Skilled sonographers (ultrasound technicians) are essential to accurate imaging and diagnosis. We offer one of the only sonographer training programs in the region, and many of our students become part of our team. Further, our cardiology fellowship program trains future generations of cardiologists.
Conditions We Evaluate
Structural heart diseases, which are problems with the tissues in your heart. These may include:
- Heart valve issues, including infection of valves (infective endocarditis).
- Aortic aneurysm, an abnormal bulge in a major blood vessel (aorta).
- Aortic dissection, a life-threatening tear in an aortic wall.
- Cardiomyopathies, or heart muscle diseases.
- Pericardial disease, which affects the tissue surrounding the heart.
Congenital heart diseases (heart defects present from birth), like a hole in the heart (called atrial or ventricular septal defect).
Coronary artery disease (CAD), the most common and deadly heart disease. If you have chest pain, a key first step is evaluation to rule out CAD.
Services We Offer
We offer a variety of imaging choices including echocardiography, cardiac computed tomography (CCT), cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (CMR) and nuclear imaging. Selecting the proper technique is essential to finding answers for each patient’s unique situation.
We may use one or more of the following procedures to diagnose your heart condition. We’ll work with you if you have any concerns about a certain procedure.
Echocardiogram (also called a heart echo or heart ultrasound) is the most frequently used cardiac imaging technique. An echo is performed with an ultrasound machine, which sends sound waves through your body to create images of the heart. It’s fast, effective and causes no pain or damage to the body. Our highly-experienced echocardiography team contributes to your care by:
- Helping you through the diagnosis and treatment process.
- Assisting in treatments and procedures for your structural heart disease.
- Guiding your surgical team before and during cardiac surgery.
To get the best diagnosis, an echo may be performed either through the chest (transthoracic echocardiography or TTE) or esophagus (transesophageal echocardiography or TEE). TEE is better for certain conditions, providing a clearer picture by avoiding the bones and muscles in the chest. TEE can also provide more detailed 3D images of the heart.
Echos are key in structural heart disease diagnosis and treatment. Echo is used not only to evaluate, but also to plan and perform operations, leading to better outcomes for our patients. Our heart care team uses echos in the catheterization lab and operating room for a variety of complex procedures and surgeries, including:
- Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR).
- Mitral valve repair using MitraClip (TMVRe).
- Transcatheter mitral valve replacement in diseased mitral prosthesis (TMVR).
- Watchman implant for transcatheter left atrial appendage closure (LAAC).
- Transcatheter tricuspid valve replacement (TTVR).
- Surgical mitral valve repair.
- Valve sparing aortic root procedure.
- Myectomy (heart muscle removal) in hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy (HOCM).
Chest pain evaluation and stress tests
Chest pain can indicate a serious problem. Our team’s first priority is making sure your chest pain isn’t caused by a life-threatening condition like coronary artery disease (CAD). To evaluate chest pain, we use a variety of testing procedures.
- Stress echocardiogram (exercise treadmill test or dobutamine stress echo): Chest pain and CAD are best evaluated by echo while your heart is under stress. To get your heart rate up, you’ll either exercise on a treadmill or receive a medication called dobutamine, which stimulates your heart.
- Nuclear stress test: You’ll receive a radioactive dye, which helps special cameras detect issues with your heart’s blood flow.
- Cardiac (heart) CT: Coronary computed tomographic angiography (CCTA) creates images of coronary arteries using X-rays or radiation. You’ll receive a special contrast material through an IV, which helps produce much clearer images. CCTA is very accurate in ruling out CAD and may also be used to evaluate structural heart disease prior to TAVR. CCTA has become a powerful alternative to stress heart tests for evaluating patients with chest pain and CAD risk factors. We'll help you understand if a CT scan is the best choice to diagnose your condition.
- Cardiac MRI: Cardiac magnetic resonance (CMR) helps test the function of your heart’s chambers (ventricles) and muscle (myocardium). CMR also evaluates your heart for scar tissue and other unusual issues in the coronary arteries, myocardium and valves. You’ll lie comfortably on a table while a large magnet scans your heart. The noise and enclosed space inside an MRI can be worrying to some patients, but you can rest assured you’re safe during the scan. You’ll also be able to talk to us through a microphone and listen as we guide you through the process.
- Other non-invasive cardiology services: Depending on your unique condition, you may need other services to test or monitor your heart. These may include electrocardiogram (ECG), PILT test, heart rhythm monitoring using a Holter monitor and extended mobile cardiac telemetry (CMT).
What to Expect
Usually, patients first see their cardiologist or primary care doctor for symptoms that might be related to heart disease. Symptoms may include chest pain, shortness of breath, palpitations feeling faint, weakness and more. Your doctor will evaluate your symptoms and any risk factors, like family history, high cholesterol levels or abnormal blood pressure. Depending on your unique case, your doctor may recommend heart imaging services at our lab. You’ll find the lab on the fourth floor of the medical center.
Your doctor’s office will contact us to schedule your appointment. Most patients don’t need to do anything special to prepare for their appointment. However, if you’re getting a nuclear heart test you will need to avoid caffeine for 24 hours beforehand.
Diagnosis & Treatment
At your appointment, we’ll help you understand how your heart test will be performed and what to expect afterward. Depending on the tests you need, you may see different members of our team (including cardiologists, cardiac radiologists and sonographers). After the test, you’ll be able to go home the same day — most procedures can be completed in about an hour.
Our team will carefully evaluate the results of your testing to make an accurate diagnosis. We’ll share the results with your doctor and make sure you’re on the best path to treatment. Your doctor will let you know your next steps, including further procedures for diagnosis or treatment.
Many patients won’t need a follow-up appointment at our lab. In some cases, your physician may recommend regular follow-up imaging services to monitor your condition.
If your heart condition requires ongoing care, we’ll schedule follow-up appointments to check up on your heart health. No matter what comes next, we’ll be here to work with your care team and guide you to the best possible outcome.
Take the Next Step
Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S. If you’re concerned about your heart health or have symptoms, talk to your primary care physician or cardiologist today. Detecting heart disease early can improve your treatment options, help you live healthier and even save your life.