Investigations

Ambulatory blood pressure monitoring

Ambulatory_blood_pressure_monitor_set_upDuring this test your blood pressure is recorded over a 24 hr period. You wear a small monitor on a belt. This is attached to a cuff around your arm. During the day the cuff normally inflates every quarter of an hour allowing a recording to be made. During the night the cuff inflates less frequently. The recording shows how you blood pressure varies in every day life – as distinct from recordings made in the consultation room or surgery. We encourage you to be normally active whilst you are wearing the recorder. However you cannot use the shower, bath or go swimming whilst the recorder is attached. In a small percentage of cases the recording is unsuccessful for technical reasons and has to be repeated.

Ambulatory monitoring (24hr tape)

Ambulatory_monitoring_set_up

This test is used to continuously monitor your heartbeat over a longer period; often 24 hours. During this time you wear a small recorder (monitor) about the size of a Sony Walkman. The monitor is attached to your body by means of electrodes. During the monitoring period if say you experience your symptoms at 3.00pm we ask you to make a note on a diary card. When the monitor is removed the recording is analysed and we can see what your heart was doing at the time of the symptoms. We encourage you to be normally active whilst you are wearing the recorder. However you cannot use the shower, bath or go swimming whilst the recorder is attached. In a small percentage of cases the recording is unsuccessful for technical reasons and has to be repeated.

I hope that this article has been useful, if you have any questions please do use the Contact me section.

The Echocardiogram (ECHO)

This test is valuable in a range of heart conditions. It is safe; does not involve any x-rays and there is no special preparation. You can return to your normal activities immediately after the test. The test typically takes between 20 – 30 minutes. During the test you lie on a couch. A special microphone is placed on the chest wall and the equipment builds up a “radar” type picture of the heart muscle and valves. The test is similar to the scans that are done in pregnant women. The scan shows the structure of the various chambers of the heart in detail and detects whether there is any significant weakness or thickening of the heart muscle.  Unfortunately ultrasound machines are unable to visualise the coronary (heart) arteries.

The Treadmill exercise (stress) test

The symptom of angina can occur during exercise when the heart muscle becomes short of fuel.  Exercise testing is a convenient way of measuring the heart's response to exercise. It is simply an ECG recording made whilst walking on a treadmill rather than at rest.  Although it may sound frightening a treadmill is simply a machine with a band, like an escalator, continuously rotating during the test.  Exercise_Test_RoomEvery few minutes, usually three, the band moves faster and becomes a little steeper.  From the heart's response to these grades of exercise a lot of information about the heart is obtained.  During the test your heart rate, blood pressure and changes in the ECG recording will be monitored. Allowing time for preparation and cool down the test may take up to 45 minutes.

I hope that this article has been useful, if you have any questions please do use the Contact me section.

The Electrocardiogram (ECG)

This records the electrical activity of the heart.  The test is painless and takes about ten minutes. During the test you lay on an examination couch. A number of plastic tabs (electrodes) are placed on your arms, legs and chest. These detect the minute electrical signals that are produced by the heart muscle.  The electrodes are connected by wires to a machine that records all these signals and prints them out on paper.  The test indicates if there has been any previous damage to the heart muscle such as that caused by a heart attack.  It does not detect the presence of narrowings in the coronary arteries. The test may also detect some changes in heart rhythm especially if they are long standing.
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