Every two minutes in the UK, someone has a heart attack. Coronary heart disease is this country’s biggest killer. If you have problems with your heart, or you’ve been referred to a specialist by your doctor, you may have to go for a heart scan. This is a simple, non-invasive assessment and helps detect heart disease early, thus reducing the potential for illness and minimising risk factors.
There are many different types of heart scan and many different names for them. Three of the most common are reviewed here.
This article on heart scan is written by Jackie Griffiths, a freelance journalist who writes health, medical, biological, and pharmaceutical articles for national and international journals, newsletters and web sites.
Ultrasound heart scan
An ultrasound heart scan (also known as a sonograph) uses very high frequency sound waves to create accurate images of the structure of the heart and the way it’s working. This procedure is used on pregnant women to show them their unborn babies, and is completely safe.
The way this type of heart scan works is to direct high frequency sound waves towards the heart, which will bounce off solid objects but pass through liquid and soft tissues. Gel will be placed onto your chest and a probe will be gently moved over the area in order to give several of different view-points. A moving image of your heart, and the valves within them, is created using these bounced back echoes, which the doctor can see on a screen. This is called an echocardiogram (ECG).
An ECG heart scan can provide doctors with the following information:
- The size of the heart chambers
- The dimensions or volume of the cavity, and the thickness of the walls
- How the heart muscle is working and if there is any disease
- In patients with long standing hypertension or high blood pressure, an ECG heart scan can determine the thickness and “stiffness” of the ventricle walls
- Whether there is any ventricle enlargement and how severe it is
- The response to treatment over time
- The pumping function of the heart