Diagnosing heart conditions using safe, accurate and virtually painless methods
The non-invasive echocardiography laboratory at Baylor Scott & White Heart and Vascular Hospital – Dallas offers a comprehensive range of basic to advanced non-invasive cardiac procedures and technologies to diagnose heart disease. Backed by over 20 years of combined, specialized experience in the field, we pride ourselves on delivering safe, quality care in a patient-centered environment here in Dallas.
The non-invasive cardiology department at our Dallas heart and vascular hospital is staffed with nationally registered sonographers who work closely with cardiologists on the hospital’s medical staff to quickly and accurately diagnose your heart condition. This team focuses on achieving the best outcomes for patients by using safe and virtually painless methods—including no radiation exposure and less risk than invasive procedures—allowing patients to resume normal activities almost immediately after the non-invasive cardiology procedure.
Accredited by the Intersocietal Accreditation Commission (IAC)
The non-invasive vascular lab at our Dallas heart center is accredited by the Intersocietal Accreditation Commission (IAC) in peripheral venous, peripheral arterial and extracranial cerebrovascular duplex (carotid Doppler) examinations. The non-invasive department has been accredited in vascular testing since 2005 with specially trained and nationally registered sonographers. The physicians on the medical staff include board-certified vascular surgeons, cardiologists and other specialists.
Commonly called a "stress test," this type of non-invasive procedure at our heart and vascular hospital in Dallas combines ultrasound imaging, electrocardiography (ECG), blood pressure monitoring and exercise to evaluate the effects of exertion on the heart. This test evaluates heart function by ultrasound imaging, which can identify abnormal blood flow to the heart muscle, confirm damage from a previous heart attack and observe the heart valve structures. The ECG is monitored throughout the test and provides necessary information on heart rhythm changes occurring.
This is a non-imaging procedure that involves exercise, electrocardiography (ECG) and blood pressure monitoring to measure the effect of exercise on your heart. You may hear this referred to as a "stress test" for your heart.
This type of stress test at our heart and vascular hospital in Dallas is similar to the exercise stress but uses medications (instead of using a treadmill) to speed up your heart rate and increase the heart's pumping mechanisms. This heart test is indicated only in patients who are unable to walk on a treadmill long enough to reach the target heart rate during they typical stress test.
This is a minimally invasive test performed by inserting a specialized probe, with an ultrasound transducer at the tip, inside your esophagus to look closely at the upper chambers and valves of your heart. The medical team at our Dallas heart and vascular hospital uses the transesophageal echocardiogram to look for abnormalities, such as blood clots or infections in the heart and a more detailed look at valve function. This non-invasive heart test does require sedation and may be performed if a transthoracic echo does not provide enough diagnostic information to your care team.
This is a quick and accurate test used to assess the overall function of the heart and valves. The medical team at our heart and vascular hospital in Dallas will use the transthoracic echocardiogram to measure the strength (heart muscle contractility) of your heart and determine if there are any valvular abnormalities.
Electrocardiogram (ECG) is one of the simplest and fastest tests used to evaluate the heart
A doctor at our Dallas heart and vascular hospital holds a medical device while talking with a patient connected to electrodes. Electrodes (small, plastic patches that stick to the skin) are placed at certain locations on the chest, arms and legs. When the electrodes are connected to an ECG machine by wires, the electrical activity of the heart is measured, interpreted and printed out. No electricity is sent into the body, and there is nothing painful or uncomfortable involved in an ECG.
Natural electrical impulses coordinate contractions of the different parts of the heart to keep blood flowing in the right directions, and in the proper amounts. An ECG records these impulses to show how fast the heart is beating, the rhythm of the heartbeats and the strength and timing of the electrical impulses. Changes in an ECG can be a sign of many heart-related conditions.
Reasons to take an electrocardiogram
There are many reasons your doctor or cardiologist may order an ECG, including as part of a thorough physical or in certain life insurance exams.
Specific reasons for an electrocardiogram
- To look for the cause of chest pain (angina)
- To evaluate problems which may be heart-related, such as severe tiredness, shortness of breath, dizziness or fainting
- To identify irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias)
- To help determine the overall health of the heart prior to procedures such as surgery
- To see how an implanted pacemaker is working
- To determine how well certain heart medications are working
- To get a baseline reading of the heart's function during a physical exam (to be used as a comparison with future ECGs)
Electrocardiograms are very low-risk
Risks associated with ECG are minimal and rare. There are certain factors or conditions, however, which may interfere with or affect the results of the ECG. These include:
- Certain medications
- Ascites (fluid buildup in the abdomen)
- Anatomical considerations, such as the size of the chest and the location of the heart within the chest
- Movement during the procedure
- Exercise or smoking prior to the procedure
- Electrolyte imbalances, such as too much or too little potassium, magnesium and/or calcium in the blood
What happens during an electrocardiogram?
An electrocardiogram may be done on an outpatient basis or as part of your hospital stay. In a private examination room, the technician will ask you to lie on a bed or table. Certain areas of your arms, legs and chest will be cleaned and, in some instances, shaved. This provides a clean, smooth surface for attaching the electrodes.
Several electrodes are attached to the skin on each arm and leg and on your chest, sometimes along with a dab of electrode paste to aid in electrical conductivity. The electrodes, then, are hooked to the ECG machine. During the test, you will be asked to lie very still and breathe normally. Sometimes you may be asked to hold your breath. You should not talk during the test.
Once the test is completed—usually after only five or 10 minutes—the electrodes are carefully removed, and any electrode paste is wiped off.
Understanding electrocardiogram results
A doctor, like one of the cardiologists at Baylor Scott & White Heart and Vascular Hospital – Dallas, will read and interpret your ECG. The doctor will look at the pattern of spikes and dips on your ECG to check the electrical activity in different parts of your heart as your heart goes through its beating cycle. The spikes and dips are grouped into different sections that show your doctor how your heart is working.
- The heartbeats in a regular rhythm, usually between 60 and 100 beats per minute
- The ECG tracing looks normal
- The heart beats too slowly (less than 60 beats per minute)
- The heart beats too fast (more than 100 beats per minute)
- The heart rhythm is not regular
- The ECG tracing does not look normal
Frequently asked questions
Where do I park?
Self-parking is available adjacent to the hospital in Lot 19 or Garage 10. Valet parking is available at the hospital's entrance off Junius Street.
Where do I go?
When you arrive, you will need to visit our Access Services desk where you will be greeted and checked in. Our access services team will collect any co-payment due and have you sign the appropriate consent forms. Once you are completely checked in, your access services representative will arrange for your transport to the non-invasive department.
How long will it take?
Most of our procedures are short, but plan on spending a couple of hours to account for checking in on the ground floor, walking to the department and completing your test.
Stress test and TEE information
- If you are having a stress test, we recommend you wear tennis shoes and comfortable clothes as though you were going to the gym or to exercise
- You cannot eat prior to a stress test or a TEE. If you are having these procedures and need to take your morning medications, do so with a small sip of water. Please consult your physician if you have any questions about how you should take your medications prior to your procedure. If you are having a TEE, you must have an individual available to drive you home following the test due to the sedation given.
- If you do not have a person to take you home, your test will be rescheduled for a time you have a ride arranged