Noninvasive Diagnostic Services
Coronary Computed Tomography Angiogram (CTA) and Coronary Artery Calcium Score (CAS)
At GW Hospital, physicians use CT, a highly advanced, non-invasive scanner that has the ability to help doctors identify heart disease in minutes by capturing thousands of detailed cross-sectional images of the patient’s beating heart. These scans provide physicians with three-dimensional views that can show narrowed areas in even the smallest blood vessels as well as help identify early disease in vessel walls that may not be narrowed.
Magnetic resonance imaging provides detailed images without any radiation or injection of dyes. Using a powerful magnetic field and radio signals, the MRI examines blood vessels and can give details about how the blood is flowing throughout the body. It also provides important information on the structure of the heart and the integrity of the heart muscle.
An echocardiogram (also called an echo) is a cardiac test that uses high frequency sound waves to produce an image of the heart. Pictures are generated as sound waves reflect off certain areas of the heart, allowing cardiologists to see images of the heart on a monitor. Echocardiograms are considered minimal to low-risk tests.
The different types of echocardiograms are:
- Transthoracic (TTE)
This is most common type of echocardiogram. Images of the heart are obtained by moving a transducer to different locations on your chest. This test is done to evaluate the heart’s structure, size and function.
- Transesophageal (TEE)
This is a specialized test performed by passing a small probe through the mouth and into the esophagus. This gives better views of the heart because the probe is closer to the heart. Physicians are better able to identify certain types of cardiac disease. Patients are sedated during a TEE to minimize any discomfort to the back of the throat.
- Stress Echocardiogram
During this test, an echocardiogram is done before and after your heart is stressed either by having you exercise on a treadmill or by injecting a medicine called Dobutamine that makes your heart beat harder and faster. A stress echocardiogram is usually done to find out if you might have decreased blood flow to your heart muscle due to coronary artery disease.
Nuclear heart scans provide images that can reveal the flow of blood throughout the heart muscle, show how effectively the heart pumps blood through the body and check for damaged heart muscle. During this test, a safe, radioactive material, called a tracer, is injected through a vein into the bloodstream that travels to the heart. The tracer releases energy, which special cameras outside of your body can detect. The cameras use the energy to create images of different areas of the heart at rest or during exercise.
The George Washington University Hospital offers single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), positron emission tomography (PET) and multi-gated acquisition radionuclide angiography (MUGA). When used with stress testing, these tests can show problems with blood flow to the heart that can be detected only when the heart is working hard and beating fast. Damaged or scarred heart muscle tissue from a previous heart attack or other injury may also be visible. The test also can reveal how well the heart's left ventricle pumps blood to the body. Weak pumping ability may be the result of heart attack, heart failure or other cause.