Heart & Vascular Tests
Get information about your heart and blood vessels with one or more advanced tests from UNC Health Southeastern. We’ll help make sure you get a correct diagnosis—your first step to better health.
You’ll learn exactly what the results of your imaging tests mean thanks to our cardiologist (heart doctor) who specializes in diagnostic imaging. Stay near home in the Lumberton area for care from this type of expert, who isn’t available at many other community hospitals.
Echocardiography, also called echo, is a heart sonogram or ultrasound. It uses sound waves you can’t feel to create pictures of the inside of your body. Usually, a health professional passes a small, painless device over your chest to look at the front of the heart.
Other times, doctors need to see the back of your heart with a test called transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE). Before this exam, you’ll receive medicine to calm you and prevent pain. Then, a health care provider places a thin tube with ultrasound technology down the throat to take pictures of your heart.
Doctors can look at your heart and blood vessels in detail with an imaging procedure called cardiac catheterization. Before this exam, a doctor gives you an injection of a special dye. This substance makes your blood vessels and parts of your heart show up on a video monitor. Then, the doctor inserts a thin tube called a catheter into an artery and moves it up to your heart.
Cardiac catheterization takes place in a special room called a cath lab. This area of the hospital has advanced technology that helps doctors make a precise, accurate diagnosis in less time. That means you get excellent care yet can spend more of your day in the comfort of home.
Radial (Wrist) Access
Most often, doctors insert the catheter through a femoral artery near your groin. But sometimes, they can insert the tube through a blood vessel in your wrist. This approach is called radial access. If you qualify, you’ll recover and go home sooner after cardiac catheterization.
Positron emission tomography (PET) shows your heart and the flow of blood through your body. This test can also reveal how well treatment is working.
Before the test, you’ll receive an injection of a slightly radioactive tracer called rubidium. This material makes your heart and blood vessels appear on a special video monitor. Then, you’ll lie on a table that moves under a PET machine so it can take pictures.
Your heart has to pump harder when you’re physically active or under stress. To see how your heart handles extra work, doctors may order:
- Exercise stress test – Measures your heartbeat as you walk or jog on a treadmill
- Dobutamine stress test – Asks you to take medicine to increase your heart rate if you can’t exercise
- Nuclear stress test – Gives you a small amount of a slightly radioactive substance called Cardiolite®, which makes your blood vessels show up on a special video monitor
- Stress echocardiogram – Uses sound waves to create pictures of your heart before and after stress
Heart Rhythm Tests
If your heart doesn’t beat at a normal, steady pace, you may need one of these tests to learn more:
- Electrocardiogram (EKG) – Places sensors on your chest to record the heart’s electrical signals for a short time
- Electrophysiology (EP) study – Inserts a catheter (thin tube) into an artery and moves it up to your heart to record electrical signals
- Event monitor – Asks you to use a small device to record your irregular heartbeats for up to a month
- Holter monitoring – Tracks your heartbeat for a full day or two through a small device
Vascular exams check for blood vessel problems in your legs, arms, neck, or other areas of the body. Tests include:
- Ankle brachial index (ABI) – Compares blood pressure in your ankle and arm to help diagnose peripheral artery disease (PAD)
- Doppler ultrasound – Uses sound waves to show how well blood flows through an artery
After a Diagnosis
If a doctor diagnoses you with a cardiovascular condition, take comfort knowing you’re in good hands at UNC Health Southeastern. We’ll recommend next steps, which may include heart treatments or vascular care to help you achieve your best health.