To make sure a patient gets an accurate and efficient diagnosis of heart disease, our cardiac specialists at Phoenix Children's Hospital conduct comprehensive and thorough evaluations, including non-invasive and invasive cardiology services.
What is cardiac imaging?
Cardiac imaging covers a spectrum of cutting-edge techniques that accurately diagnose and treat heart conditions. These imaging tests include:
- Echocardiography: This is a procedure that uses sound waves to make detailed pictures of the heart to best assess the heart’s function and condition. Echocardiography is also called echo, cardiac ultrasound, cardiac ultrasonography or cardiac Doppler.
- Chest x-ray: X-rays produce images of the body, organs and other internal structures for diagnostic purposes using low levels of external radiation. X-rays pass through body structures onto specially treated plates (similar to camera film) and make a "negative" type picture. X-rays assess the heart’s status by looking at the heart itself, and evaluating the lungs and the adjacent bony structures.
- EKG/ECG: An electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) is one of the simplest and fastest procedures to evaluate the heart. This test can be done almost anywhere since the equipment is compact and portable. Electrodes (small, plastic patches) are placed at certain locations on a patient’s chest, arms and legs. When the electrodes are connected to the ECG machine by lead wires, the electrical activity of the heart is measured, interpreted and printed out for the physician to evaluate.
- Transesophageal echocardiography: This procedure, also known as TEE or heart scan with endoscopy, uses a small probe guided into the esophagus while a patient is sedated to closely evaluate the heart and its surrounding blood vessels. This test shows the size and shape of the heart, as well as the heart chambers and valves, and is an important one in diagnosing heart disease.
- Fetal echocardiography: This ultrasound test performed during pregnancy evaluates the heart of the unborn baby by using sound waves to check the heart. Fetal echocardiography does not have any risks for the unborn baby or the mother. The lowest possible ultrasound settings are used.
- CT (computed tomography) scan: A computed tomography scan (also called CT or CAT scan) captures many different views of a particular part of the body (including organs, bones and muscles) by using an X-ray beam that moves in a circle around the body. Afterward, a computer interprets the X-ray data and displays it in a 2D format on a monitor.
- Ultrafast/electron beam CT scan: Recent advances in medical technology make it possible for these scans to take multiple images of the heart within the time of a single heartbeat, which provides more detail about the heart's function and structures while greatly decreasing the amount of time required. Also known as electron-beam tomography (or EBT), this technology can be used to diagnose certain heart diseases.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): This diagnostic procedure produces detailed images of organs and structures within the body by using a combination of a large magnet, radiofrequencies and a computer.
- Cardiac catheterization: During this specialized procedure, a long, flexible tube (catheter) is inserted into a blood vessel (usually in the leg or arm) and guided into the heart, allowing a close look at the structures inside. Cardiac catheterization is both a test and treatment. As a test, it can tell a doctor a lot about a patient’s heart. As a treatment, often called interventional catheterization, it can open narrow valves and blood vessels or fix blood vessels or holes in the heart.