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Cardiac function tests

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What are Cardiac function tests?

Cardiac function tests help to assess the performance of the heart under different conditions.

These include:

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG): In this, the pattern of electrical activity is recorded in waveforms with the patient lying down.
  • Echocardiogram: An echo is an ultrasound taken at rest that forms pictures of the heart as well as flow of blood within the heart.
  • Stress test (Exercise ECG): This is an ECG carried out during exercise, namely, walking on the treadmill.
  • Nuclear stress tests: This consists of nuclear imaging of the heart under stress and at rest.
  • Holter monitor: A monitor is attached to the patient which records electrical activity of the heart continuously for 1 or 2 days.
  • Event recorder (loop recorder): The recorder records electrical activity only when patient presses a button on experiencing symptoms. It is worn for several weeks.
  • Coronary Angiography: This is an invasive test in which the heart is examined with the help of a catheter inserted from the groin artery till the heart.
  • Electrophysiology: The functioning of the heart is observed after inducing abnormal rhythms. 

Why is it conducted?

Heart disease is fairly common and often goes unnoticed till a heart attack occurs. Cardiac function tests are used to test the level of performance and the need for medical intervention and lifestyle changes.

Who should go for it?

  • Persons with known risk factors for heart disease such as long standing diabetes and hypertension as well as a family history of heart disease.
  • Persons presenting with symptoms of chest pain, shortness of breath, and fainting.


  • Electrocardiogram(ECG):An ECG is recorded with the help of patches positioned on the chest. These patches are attached to the ECG machine with wires.
  • Echocardiogram: A transducer or probe is put on the chest to see images of the heart.
  • Stress test (Exercise ECG): This is an ECG under stress. Stress may be induced through walking on the treadmill or through medication.
  • Nuclear stress tests: A radioactive material (thalium) is injected to follow blood flow in the heart. Scanning with a nuclear camera is done at rest and during treadmill walking.
  • Holter monitor: The patient is required to wear a portable recorder for the duration of the test along with maintaining a log of daily activities.
  • Event recorder (loop recorder): The patient wears a recorder which records an ECG constantly which is overwritten every few minutes. The patient is expected to press the record button when he has any symptoms. This recording is telephonically sent to a monitoring center.
  • Coronary Angiography: A catheter is taken to the heart from the groin artery and x-rays are taken after injecting a dye.
  • Electrophysiology: This is again an invasive test in which a catheter is inserted into the heart. Observations are made after causing rhythm irregularities.

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Interpretation of results 

  • Electrocardiogram(ECG): changes in heart rhythm pattern helps to detect abnormalities.
  • Echocardiogram: detects size, pumping strength, valve functioning, muscle damage and structural defects.
  • Stress test (Exercise ECG): reveals functioning of heart under physical effort.
  • Nuclear stress tests: identifies areas of weak heart muscle and reduced blood flow.
  • Holter monitor: this helps to detect episodes of disturbances in heart rhythm during normal activities when symptoms may not be clear in ECG taken at rest.
  • Event recorder (loop recorder): records electrical activity only when the patient has symptoms. It is useful for those persons who do not have symptoms frequently.
  • Coronary Angiography: reveals narrowing or blockage of arteries,
  • Electrophysiology: electrical activity disturbances are studied along with the most effective line of treatment

Written by: healthplus24.com team

Date last updated: February 03, 2015