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Having diagnostic tests performed is key for early detection and determining your health risks. Information gathered from these tests can help you avoid certain health conditions or they can help you get an early start on treatment to avoid further complications.

Since many forms of heart disease are preventable, our heart experts use leading-edge technology and advanced-diagnostic tests to reduce its impact in our communities. The tests listed below may vary from location-to-location, so be sure to check with your Novant Health location to see which tests are available.


Ankle brachial index - The ankle brachial index is a simple test that checks your risk for peripheral artery disease (PAD), a vascular disease that causes your arteries to become narrowed and blood flow to your arms and legs to become restricted. This test measures blood pressure at the ankle and in the arm while you are at rest and walking on a treadmill.

If your ankle brachial index shows that your risk for PAD is high or that you already have it, we can connect you with a skilled heart specialist that can treat you and help lower your risk for heart and vascular disease.

Cardiac catheterization - Angiography, or catheterization, shows our physicians how your heart and blood vessels work and check for blockages or problems with your heart valves. It is also used to treat a blockage by opening the blocked artery and permitting a stent to be inserted for better blood flow.

Catheterization is done in our cath lab, where state-of-the-art imaging technology helps us find your blockage and start treatment quickly. Your physician will thread the catheter from a small incision, usually in your wrist or groin, up to your heart. Once the catheter reaches the heart, the medical team will be able to see an image of your heart and if there are blockages or other problems.

Cardiac scoring CT and carotid IMT ultrasounds - Cardiac (calcium) scoring uses a special X-ray called a computed tomography (CT) scan to check for the buildup of calcium on the walls of the arteries. The carotid artery intima-media thickness (IMT) ultrasound scan determines how thick the carotid artery walls are (specifically the intima and media sections), which can determine your risk of a heart attack or stroke. These quick and simple ultrasound tests evaluate your risk for heart disease. 

Males above age 45 and females above age 55 can benefit from the information provided by a cardiac scoring exam. Males ages 30 to 45 and women ages 30 to 55 benefit from the information provided by a carotid IMT exam. Younger individuals might also benefit if other heart disease risk factors are present. Our high-tech scanning equipment makes these tests quick, easy and completely noninvasive.

Echocardiogram (Echo) - Echocardiography uses sound waves to see how your heart is structured and whether it is working properly. Our physicians use a variety of echocardiography technologies, including three-dimensional modeling, to get a comprehensive picture of your heart’s valves and muscle.

Electrocardiogram (ECG) - An electrocardiogram, also known as ECG or EKG, is a painless test used to record your heart's electrical activity. It can show whether you have a normal heartbeat or if a heart attack has happened, and if so, when.

During an ECG, electrodes are placed on your arms, legs and chest. The electrodes are hooked to a machine that reads the electrical activity in your heart and draws a picture of it on paper. We use this drawing to find any heartbeat irregularities.

Electrophysiology studies - Electrophysiology (EP) studies help identify the cause of an irregular heartbeat. During this painless test, small wires are guided into your heart, and a series of electrical pulses speed up or slow down your heart rate.

Stress testing - A stress test determines how much stress your heart can handle before it develops abnormal rhythms or decreased blood flow. You may have stress testing periodically as part of a physical checkup or if you are already being treated for a heart condition. We perform a number of different stress tests depending on your medical condition:

  • Exercise stress test with ECG
  • Exercise stress test with nuclear medicine
  • Exercise stress test with echocardiography
  • Pharmacologic stress testing
  • Dobutamine stress echocardiography

Tilt testing - If you are having fainting spells, tilt testing can help find the cause and help your physician suggest the best treatment option. During a tilt test, you lie flat on a special exam table while hooked up to a blood pressure monitor and an ECG machine (special equipment that records your heart’s electrical impulses). The table is tilted at different angles to cause your blood pressure and heart rate to change. This enables your physician to see if blood is pooling in your legs when you stand, instead of reaching your heart.

Ultrasound - Ultrasonography (ultrasound) uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of blood vessels, tissues and organs that are recorded and displayed on a computer screen. There are several types of ultrasound:

  • Vascular ultrasound – examines the blood circulation in the arms and legs.
  • Carotid ultrasound – examines the two large arteries in the neck, called carotid arteries, which deliver blood from the heart to the brain.
  • Abdominal ultrasound – looks for a weakened or bulging spot in your abdominal aorta, the artery that runs through the middle of your abdomen and supplies blood to the lower half of your body.

To learn more about our diagnostic tests, visit our online health library. A physician referral is required for most diagnostic tests.

To schedule an appointment with one of our heart and vascular experts, contact one of our convenient locations.