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What are noninvasive diagnostic services?

At the Heart Institute at Staten Island University Hospital, our team of heart specialists offers the most advanced, noninvasive diagnostic services to diagnose a variety of heart conditions.

Noninvasive diagnostic testing options offered at The Heart Institute include:

  • Coronary calcium scoring
  • Cardiac MRI
  • CTA CT angiography
  • Additional cardiac diagnostics

Types of noninvasive diagnostic services

Coronary calcium scoring

Coronary calcium scoring is one of the most advanced cardiac diagnostic tests available today. A simple, noninvasive test, the calcium test is used to detect early signs of heart disease, greatly reducing your risk of a sudden heart attack.

Through the use of new technology called 64-slice CT scanning, which allows your heart and coronary arteries to be visualized in just a few breaths, calcium scoring measures the location and extent of calcified plaque. The test can suggest the presence of coronary artery disease even when your arteries are less than 50% blocked. More than half of all heart attacks occur with less than 50% narrowing. Unlike similar coronary diagnostic tests, calcium scoring requires no injections and no need to drink any special fluids to diagnose coronary artery disease.

Your coronary artery calcium score can help you make lifestyle changes that may be needed depending on the severity of coronary artery disease, thus decreasing your chances of a future heart attack.

Calcium scoring is an easy, noninvasive exam used to detect coronary artery disease in its early stages. The test takes about five minutes. During that time, thousands of images are taken of your heart and arteries.

If you’re diabetic or have any two of the following additional risk factors, you could be at risk for a sudden heart attack and should know your calcium score:

  • Over 40 years of age
  • Family history of heart disease
  • High cholesterol
  • Past or present smoker
  • High blood pressure

Cardiac MRI

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a noninvasive medical test that uses a powerful magnet and a computer to produce detailed pictures of your internal body structures. The images can then be examined on a computer monitor by a radiologist. MRI does not use ionizing radiation (X-rays).

Detailed MRI images allow your physician to better evaluate various parts of your body and determine the presence of certain diseases that may not be assessed adequately with other imaging methods.

Using cardiac MRI, your physician can:

  • Examine the size and thickness of the chambers of your heart
  • Determine the extent of myocardial (heart muscle) damage caused by a heart attack or progressive heart disease
  • Assess your recovery following treatment

CT angiography: Coronary computed tomography angiogram

A coronary computed tomography angiogram is a diagnostic imaging test that uses advanced technology to produce high-resolution, three-dimensional images of your moving heart and its vessels. The scan may be carried out if you've been identified as possessing a high risk for coronary disease. This quick, painless test clearly defines plaque, calcium build up and narrowed arteries, as well as damaged muscle.

CT angiography combines the technology of CT scan and traditional angiography. X-rays are used to obtain multiple cross section images or slices, which in turn are reconstructed by a computer into the three-dimensional pictures. Contrast dye is injected into a vein to provide detailed images of your blood vessels and the tissues of your heart.

Other noninvasive cardiac diagnostics

The Heart Institute also offers a full range of other noninvasive services to diagnose coronary artery disease. Should you be scheduled for any of the following tests, your doctor will inform you of any pre-testing preparations.

ECG (Electrocardiogram)
ECG tracings, which represent the changes in electric potential produced by the contraction of the heart, are recorded using an electrocardiograph and evaluated by cardiologists. The ECG will assess your heart rhythm, diagnose poor blood flow to the heart muscle, and detect abnormalities of your heart, such as chamber enlargement or abnormal electrical condition. The ECG helps identify heart problems, such as the risk for heart attack. Service is available 24/7.

Echocardiography
Echocardiography or "echo" is the utilization of ultrasound to generate images of the heart’s anatomy and function. During the test, structures, blood flow and valve function are measured and evaluated. An echo is a painless test which is used to detect possible blood clots inside the heart. It can also identify fluid buildup in the pericardium, which is the sac around the heart, and also detects problems with the aorta. Service is available 24/7.

Stress testing
Stress testing is a diagnostic modality utilized to evaluate the response of the myocardium (the muscular tissue of the heart to exercise. It involves a standard protocol of monitored Ambulation on a treadmill at prescribed speeds and inclines, or the injection of a medication, which produces a similar reaction in the heart as exercise. Reactions to stress are monitored through the use of electrocardiography.

Nuclear stress test
A nuclear stress test is a diagnostic modality to test for coronary disease. Nuclear stress testing involves the intravenous injection of a radioisotope, which serves as a marker to measure blood flow to the heart muscle at rest and during stress. It involves the use of a camera that aids in the tracking of the radioisotope. Stress may be in the form of exercise or may be pharmacologically induced. The test is performed in conjunction with the Nuclear Medicine division of the Radiology Department.

Stress Echocardiography
Stress echocardiography is the utilization of ultrasound to evaluate the anatomic and physiologic responses of the heart to stress. Common indicators for a stress echocardiogram are to determine if coronary artery disease is present and if further treatments are required. The stress test also is used to evaluate progress following a major cardiac event and can also be used to investigate the effort of exercise on the heart valve function.

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