Frequently Asked Questions

Basic Testing | Exercise Stress Test | Cardiac Echo | CCTA | Holter Monitoring | Cardiac MRI

Why do I need this?

Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of North Americans, in men outnumbering the next 7 causes of death combined, and in women outnumbering the next 16 causes of death combined.

If you are over 40 years old, the leading cause of sudden cardiac death is a heart attack (where a blood clot suddenly blocks your coronary artery), which can lead to a lethal heart rhythm disturbance (arrhythmia). Heart attacks most often come without warning – without prior symptoms.

If you are under 40 the leading cause of sudden death is Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM – a congenital abnormal thickening of the heart’s muscle), which like heart attack can also cause a lethal arrhythmia. When you hear of a young athlete suddenly dying on the playing field, HCM was often the reason, and HCM is not easy to detect, often missed on routine physical exams.

Choosing False Creek Surgical Centre’s Cardiac Protection Plan will investigate whether you are at risk for the above disorders (and any other cardiac disorder), enabling maximum planning and protection.

What can be expected?

If you have selected a complete cardiac protection package, we’ll get you started with the “Basics” – a physical exam, blood test, and 12 lead ECG from one of our highly qualified physicians. The doctor will take your medical history (best to bring hospital and doctor’s records with you) including what medications you are on and any questionable symptoms.

How should I prepare?

  • You should wear loose comfortable clothing and shoes (preferably running shoes).
  • You should take a bath or shower before coming to your appointment as you will not be able to do so while wearing the holter monitor.
  • Do not apply any body lotion or oil to your skin before the appointment, as this makes it difficult to attach the electrodes.
  • Bring a list of all present medications. Including sildenafil citrate (Viagra).

 

When can I start taking my heart medication(s) again?

  • Your cardiologist may decide to temporarily discontinue certain heart medications prior to the test. These are discontinued because they may offset the effectiveness of the test.
  • Your cardiologist MUST inform you whether to discontinue these heart medications 48 hours prior to the test. DO NOT STOP any medication on your own without checking with your cardiologist.
  • You may resume taking your medications following the exercise test.

Will I be able to drive after the test?
Yes.

 

The Basics

What will happen during the test?

Electrocardiogram (ECG): In this test, patches with wires (electrodes) are attached to the patient’s skin to measure the electrical impulses given off by the heart. Impulses are recorded as waves displayed on a monitor or printed on paper. An ECG can give information about the heart’s rhythm and heart size.

Blood Test: Your blood offers many clues about your heart health. For example, high levels of “bad” cholesterol in your blood can be a sign that you’re at increased risk of having a heart attack. And other substances in your blood can help your doctor determine if you have heart failure or are at risk of developing plaques in your arteries (atherosclerosis).

A complete cholesterol test — also called a lipid panel or lipid profile — is a group of blood tests that can measure the amount of cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood. A cholesterol test can help determine your risk of atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaques in your arteries that can lead to narrowed or blocked arteries
throughout your body. If your cholesterol levels are high, you probably won’t have any signs or symptoms, so a cholesterol test is an important tool. High cholesterol levels are a significant risk factor for heart disease.

Blood Pressure: Blood pressure is a measurement of the force applied to the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps blood through the body. Blood pressure is continually changing depending on activity, temperature, diet,
emotional state, posture, physical state, and medication use. High blood pressure increases the risk of heart failure, heart attack, stroke, and kidney failure. If you have high blood pressure, blood pressure measurements can help determine if your medicine and diet changes are working. Low blood pressure may be a sign of a variety of illnesses, including heart failure, infection, gland disorders, and dehydration.

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Exercise Stress Testing

 

What will happen during the test?

You will exercise by walking on a treadmill. The treadmill will start slowly and then the speed and grade will increase in stages. As exercise increases, your heart rate and blood pressure will rise. This is a normal response and they will be monitored along with your ECG.

You will be encouraged to exercise for as long as you can because this increases the effectiveness of the test. If you experience any symptoms at any time, such as chest pain, shortness of breath or lightheadedness, immediately tell the individual monitoring the test so adjustments can be made.

After the exercise portion of the test, you will be seated in a chair for a few minutes. Your blood pressure and ECG will continue to be monitored while you recover.

How long will the test last?
The test lasts anywhere from 30 – 45 minutes depending on exercise and recovery time. However, you should allow about one hour for the entire test.

What is the risk factor for the exercise test?
The exercise portion of the test constitutes a risk factor equivalent to 1,500 kilometers of highway driving.

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Cardiac Echo

What will happen during the test?
Several electrode pads will be placed on your chest and shoulders to monitor your heartbeat.

You will be asked to lie down on an examination table on your left side. In order to obtain clearer pictures, a colourless, water-based gel will be applied to your chest. The gel may feel cool but will not harm your skin and will be removed at the end of the test.

The technologist will hold a transducer on your chest to obtain different views of the heart. Sound waves are sent through the transducer and are reflected off the various structures of the heart to produce an image on the video monitor. You may or may not hear a “whoosh” sound while the pictures are being taken.

The transducer must be pressed firmly against your chest by the technologist, in order to obtain better quality images and this pressure may be uncomfortable, especially over your ribs.

You may be asked to change your position or hold your breath at times during the test in order to take pictures of different areas of your heart.

How long will the test last?
The test lasts approximately 45 – 60 minutes depending on the number of images to be obtained.

Will I experience any discomfort?
You should feel no major discomfort during the test. However, in certain instances, the transducer must be held very firmly by the technologist against your chest and this pressure can be uncomfortable, especially over your ribs.

What are the risk factors?
The test is considered to be among the safest diagnostic tests available.

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CCTA & Coronary Risk Score

 

What will happen during the test?

Calcium-Score Screening Heart Scan: The calcium-score screening heart scan is a test used to detect calcium deposits in the coronary arteries. The amount of coronary calcium has been recognized as a powerful
predictor of future cardiac events and can be used to guide lifestyle modifications and preventive medical therapies to reduce this risk. The scan takes only a few minutes to perform and does not require injection of intravenous iodine contrast.

Coronary CT Angiography: Coronary computed tomography angiography is a noninvasive (does not involve tools that break the skin or physically enter the body) heart imaging test. High-resolution, 3-dimensional pictures of the moving heart and great vessels are produced to determine if either fatty or calcium deposits have built up in the coronary arteries.

During the test, X-rays pass through the body and are picked up by special detectors in the scanner. Coronary CTA is most useful to determine whether symptoms of chest pain may be caused by a coronary blockage,
particularly in individuals that may be at risk, such as those with a family history of cardiac events, diabetes, high blood pressure, smokers, and/or those with elevated cholesterol.

How long will the test last?
About 10 minutes.

Are there any risks?
TCT angiograms carry some risk of radiation exposure, and if you have coronary artery disease, a traditional coronary angiogram may be a better option, since you can also receive treatment
for your artery blockages during a traditional coronary angiogram.

Click here to learn more about CCTA testing on our Advanced Diagnostics site.

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Holter Monitoring

 

What will happen during the test?
A Holter monitor has electrodes that are attached to your chest with adhesive and then are connected to a recording device. Your doctor uses information captured on the Holter monitor’s recording device to figure out if you have a heart rhythm problem.

Will I experience anything during the test?
The electrode and tape sites may itch slightly while wearing the monitor. The recording unit is very lightweight, so carrying it is usually not uncomfortable.

Are there any risks to wearing a holter monitor?
There is no risk associated with wearing a holter monitor.

How do I remove the adhesive residue from the skin on my chest?
Use baby oil to remove the adhesive residue from the skin on your chest. DO NOT use perfumed items or products containing alcohol since this may result in severe skin irritation.

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Cardiac MRI

 

What will happen during the test?

Cardiac MRI is painless and harmless. You’ll lie on your back on a sliding table that goes inside the tunnel-like machine.

How long will the test last?
Cardiac MRI usually takes 45 to 90 minutes, depending on how many pictures are needed.

Are there any risks?

Cardiac MRI produces no side effects from the magnetic fields and radio waves. This method of taking pictures of organs and tissues doesn’t carry a risk of causing cancer or birth defects.

FAQ last modified: November 14th, 2014 by Centric Health
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    6th Floor - False Creek Healthcare
    555 W 8th Ave
    Vancouver, BC
    V5Z 1C6 Canada

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