Brigham and Women’s Harbor Medical Associates – Cardiac Testing

Frequently Asked Questions About Cardiac Testing

Nuclear Imaging

Hours: Monday-Friday, 8:30am-5:00pm

Our Nuclear Medicine Department is equipped with ADAC, large field view, gamma camera. We are able to perform all types of bone scans as well as gastric emptying studies. These test are performed in Suite 410.

Cardiac Echocardiography

Hours: Monday-Friday, 8:30am-5:00pm

Echocardiography is the use of ultrasound waves to produce an image of the heart’s structure and function. A transducer, or modified microphone, turns electrical energy into sound waves, which bounce off tissues in the heart and are recorded onto videotape or computer disk for analysis.

Echocardiography is performed by a registered technician. During a stress echocardiogram, an electrocardiogram, or EKG, which records the heart’s electrical activity, is performed to monitor the heartbeat. Blood pressure is also monitored. For transthoracic and stress echocardiography, a gel is used on the chest to improve conduction and reception. This may feel cold and moist.

For a transthoracic echocardiography, the transducer is moved across the chest to gather data. The patient may feel slight pressure or vibration surrounding the area being examined. The patient may hear a “whooshing” sound, which is the amplified sound of the blood flowing.

For stress echocardiography, the patient exercises on a treadmill until reaching a pre-determined target heart rate, then stops exercising. At that point, the transthoracic echocardiographic technique is used.

Echocardiography is primarily used to detect and assess the following:

  • Cardiac Murmur
  • Cardiomyopathy (enlargement of the heart)
  • Congenital (present at birth) heart defects
  • Heart attack damage or scarring
  • Pericardial disease (the membrane that surrounds the heart)
  • The function of the heart muscle, blood vessels, and valves

Cardiac Stress Testing

Hours: Monday-Friday, 8:30am-5:00pm

There are several types of stress testing.

An exercise stress test is performed to assess the heart’s response to exercise. While being monitored, the patient is put under physical stress-usually walking on a treadmill. For patients who are unable to physically exercise, a medication can be given that increases the heart rate similarly to exercise.

An exercise test assesses the hearts’ ability to tolerate increasing intensities of exercise while their blood pressure, heart electrical impulses and other responses are monitored. A stress test can provide valuable information about several medical conditions, including Coronary Heart Disease, Electrical Abnormalities and Peripheral Vascular Disease.

An ETT (Exercise Tolerance Test) will take approximately 30 minutes to complete, including check-in, preparation and the actual procedure. Patients should have nothing to eat or drink 2 hours prior to the test.

A Nuclear Stress Test will take approximately 3 hours to complete. Patients will have the procedure explained to them and sign a consent form, an IV will be started and an injection of a radioactive tracer will be given. Images will be obtained before and after exercise. Patients should refrain from eating for 4 hours prior to the test and no caffeine for 12 hours prior to the test.

All stress tests are performed at our 541 Main Street, So. Weymouth location, in the Cardiac Testing Suite 410.

Cardiac Monitoring

Hours: Monday-Friday, 8:30am-5:00pm

The heart is well protected from outside danger by ribs and other body structures. This makes monitoring a special challenge. Medical science has developed several ways of seeing the heart without actually having to open the chest. A doctor begins by touching the chest, and by thumping lightly can get an idea of the shape of the heart. A stethoscope allows you to hear the sound of the heart. If the sound is unusual, this could indicate arrhythmias or heart murmurs. An X-ray machine passes rays through the chest to make a shadow picture showing the position and the size of the heart. Echocardiography and electrocardiography provide even clearer pictures without causing any real discomfort to the patient.

Often, events doctors need to be aware of happen during certain activities such as exercise, eating, emotional stress, bowel movements, or even sleeping. A continuous 24-hour recording will much more likely detect any abnormal heartbeats that occur during these activities. Two small metal pads (electrodes) are attached to your chest and pick up the electrical signals of your hearing, providing a continuous 24 – 72 hour record. Keeping a diary of all your activities and sometimes will be helpful.

A Holter monitor is much more likely to detect a problem since in 24 hours it records about 100,000 heartbeats. A standard EKG monitors about 50 heartbeats during the brief period you are attached to the machine.

To prepare for this test, the monitor and electrodes will be fitted. A small amount of electrode paste or gel will be applied to the areas where the electrode pads will be placed. The electrodes will be connected to the monitor with wires, and you then go about your daily activities.

It is important to:

  • Tell your doctor what medications you are taking
  • Give your doctor a copy of any previous monitoring results you have.
  • Wear a loose fitting shirt or blouse.
  • Avoid wearing jewelry or clothes with metal buttons or buckles. These can interfere with the recording. Women should not wear an underwire bra as this can also interfere with the recording.
  • Know that you will not be able to shower for 24 hours while wearing the monitor.


Cardiac Testing
541 Main Street, Suite 410
South Weymouth, MA 02190
Phone: (781) 952-1288

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