Diagnostics Related to the Cardiovascular System Video

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  • 0:02 Diagnosis of…
  • 1:05 Non-Invasive Diagnostics
  • 3:52 Invasive Diagnostics
  • 5:39 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Betsy Chesnutt

Betsy teaches college physics, biology, and engineering and has a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering

There are many tests that can be used to diagnose cardiovascular diseases and disorders. In this lesson, learn about the diagnostic tests that can be done to see what is going on inside your heart.

Diagnosis of Cardiovascular Disorders

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and one reason it is so deadly is that many people don't know they have a problem until something catastrophic, like a heart attack, happens. However, there are many diagnostic tests, both invasive and non-invasive, that can be used to detect issues that can lead to heart attacks and strokes if they aren't treated. It's a good idea to see your doctor regularly and to have some of these tests for heart disease performed if you have any risk factors.

To learn more about cardiovascular diagnostic tests, let's follow a patient, Johnny, as he talks to his doctor about the health of his heart. Johnny is a 60-year-old man who is in apparently very good health, but he is worried that he might have some cardiovascular problems that he doesn't know about. He's scared to have any tests done, but he has decided to do it anyway. Let's go along with Johnny as he visits a doctor who diagnoses and treats problems with the heart, Cardiologist Carl.

Non-Invasive Cardiovascular Diagnostics

Doctor: Hello, Johnny, I'm Cardiologist Carl. I am here to make sure that your heart is working properly, and there are several types of diagnostic tests that we can use to see what is going on inside your heart.

Johnny: Thanks, Doctor. Will I have to have surgery? I really don't want to!

Doctor: Probably not. Many tests that we can do are called non-invasive because they do not require any type of surgery and can be performed right here in my office. The first test that we will do is called an electrocardiogram, or ECG. An ECG measures the electrical activity of the heart, and it is used to diagnose problems with the electrical functioning of the heart. With every heartbeat, your heart muscle depolarizes, and this can be detected by electrodes placed on your skin. It makes a characteristic wave pattern, and if there are abnormalities in any part of the cycle, this can be easily seen.

We can do this test right here in the office, or I can send you home with a Holter monitor, which is a portable device that records an ECG continuously for 24 to 48 hours. You can take it home with you, and it will record the electrical activity of your heart for a day or two as you go about your normal activities so that I can see if there are any problems that might not show up in the office.

Johnny: Okay. That doesn't sound too bad. I think I could do that. Is that the only diagnostic test that you can do for my heart?

Doctor: Certainly not! We can also perform a stress test, which tests the heart's function when it is under stress, such as during exercise. In a stress test, you will have to walk on a treadmill while I measure your heart's function with an ECG.

This kind of test is used to see what happens when your heart rate increases and your heart needs to deliver more blood to your muscles. It can show if there are problems with the functioning of your heart. As part of the stress test, we can also do an echocardiogram, which is an ultrasound of the heart that shows the structure of the heart and blood flow to the heart. The word 'echo' in 'echocardiogram' is a clue to how this type of test works. High frequency sound waves are sent through your skin, and they bounce off your heart and give you an image of your heart as it moves. The sound waves bounce off your moving heart just like they might bounce off a wall and cause you to hear an echo.

Echocardiograms are used to measure the size and shape of the heart, to see how well the heart is pumping, and to accurately measure blood flow to the heart. By doing a stress test and echocardiogram, we will be able to get a clear picture of how your heart is working.

Johnny: Well, I don't really like treadmills, but I guess I can do that. What will happen to me if you find something wrong on one of those tests? Does it mean I'm going to die?

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