The Pilla Heart Center provides a full range of diagnostic testing to identify and manage heart problems. Some diagnostic techniques may be used to simultaneously treat the patient in a minimally invasive way.
We use the latest technology to make diagnosing the causes of heart disease as precise as possible. Our diagnostic capabilities include:
- Cardiac catheterization
During a cardiac catheterization procedure, specially trained interventional cardiologists guide a thin flexible tube (or catheter) into the heart. This can identify blocked arteries, evaluate the severity of heart valve disease and assess other cardiac conditions.
The cardiologists at the Pilla Heart Center perform more than 2,500 cardiac catheterizations each year in six specialized cardiac catheterization laboratories, two of which are dedicated to electrophysiology. These advanced procedure rooms are equipped with the latest in cardiac technology. Patients benefit from our longstanding expertise in cardiac catheterization and leading-edge treatment capabilities using the technique.
Cardiac catheterization is often performed on patients who have experienced chest pain, or angina. It also may be used to diagnose and assess: heart valve conditions such as aortic stenosis; coronary artery disease; congestive heart failure; cardiomyopathy; and congenital heart defects.
This testing evaluates heart valves, heart size and heart muscle function. Each study using this technology, called an echocardiogram, takes about 20 to 25 minutes in a quiet room. High-frequency sound waves create images of the heart valves opening and closing, showing how the blood flows through the heart chambers. Heart size and efficiency can also be evaluated.
A transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE) is non-invasive and uses color-flow Doppler cardiac ultrasound to create a moving picture of the heart and its functioning.A transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) produces a highly detailed image by using an ultrasound probe in the esophagus, behind the heart, to identify valve disease or blood clots. This test is conducted under sedation.
Abington Memorial Hospital and the Pilla Heart Center perform more than 11,675 echocardiography procedures annually.
- Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG)
Perhaps the best-known heart test, electrocardiograms (also called EKGs or ECGs) check heart rhythms by measuring and recording cardiac electrical activity. Abnormal heart rhythms or EKG/ECG results may indicate heart disease, but some problems are not seen on electrocardiograms.
Diagnostic electrophysiology studies (EPS) measure electrical activity within heart muscle cells. The one-to-three hour EPS procedure – performed while the patient is awake, but sedated – involves the insertion of "pacing " catheters into the heart. The results can detect the need for atrial fibrillation intervention or pacemaker electrode replacement.
In addition to EPS, the electrophysiology specialists on the Pilla Heart Center team also are highly skilled in using a minimally invasive, sophisticated cardiac mapping system for rapid diagnosis of any arrhythmia.
Our electrophysiologists use the most up-to-date technology in specially equipped rooms dedicated just for those procedures.
For patients whose symptoms occur on and off, special wearable heart monitors help document heart rhythm disturbances or periods of dizziness or lightheadedness. These cardiac event and 24-hour Holter monitors use EKG technology and implantable loop recorders. The monitors are worn at home to evaluate whether symptoms are due to arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat.
Blood pressure evaluation during daily activities, instead of seated in a doctor’s office, is also available. This allows blood pressure readings to be monitored and recorded at home over a 24-hour period.
- Stress tests
These evaluations compare the patient’s heart functioning at rest and under controlled stress (such as walking) to evaluate coronary artery disease. For exercise stress tests, echocardiograms are performed before and after a patient reaches the appropriate target heart rate while walking on a treadmill. Exercise stress is increased gradually.
Patients who are unable to exercise receive medications to stimulate heart rate (non-exercise stress test). Changes in heart wall motion can suggest blood flow problems. Blood pressure is also measured. Abnormal stress test findings usually will be followed by other tests.
The Pilla Heart Center offers stress tests using nuclear imaging agents as well as non-nuclear exams. Our facility conducts about 3,000 nuclear and non-nuclear stress tests each year.
For expertise on diagnostics, contact the specialists at Abington’s Pilla Heart Center, including the Porter Institute for Valvular Heart Disease, Blank Vascular Center, Heart Rhythm Center, and Comprehensive Heart Failure Program.