Diagnosis Heart Failure: Tests

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: November 2019

A heart failure (HF) diagnosis involves a physical exam, a description of symptoms, and for some people, other types of tests.1-2 In order to determine if you have heart failure, it is classification or staging, and the potential cause, your provider may order different kinds of tests. These can include blood tests, X-rays, imaging, and stress tests.

Test results

Results from this array of tests can offer detailed information on the structure of the heart, the functioning of the chambers, and the pumping ability. They can also identify the presence of any disease and abnormalities or blockages that could cause symptoms of heart failure.1

  • Blood tests: To look for conditions and chemical levels that can affect the heart.
  • Chest X-rays: Chest X-rays: To examine the condition of the heart and lungs.
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG): To measure the electrical activity of the heart including any rhythm problems or muscle tissue damage.
  • Echocardiogram: To create an image showing the size and shape of your heart. It measures the heart’s ejection fraction, which indicates how well the heart is pumping.
  • Exercise stress test: To measure how the heart responds to exertion. It involves walking on a treadmill while wearing electrodes attached to an EKG machine, in order to evaluate heart rate, blood pressure, breathing ability, and exhaustion.
  • Chemical stress test: To measure how the heart responds to exertion stimulated by chemical agents injected into the body that cause the heart to function as if exercising or under stress.
  • Cardiac computerized tomography (CT) scan: To aggregate images of the heart and chest using a rotating x-ray tube.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): To use radio waves broadcast to align particles which produce signals that create images of your heart.
  • Coronary angiogram: To insert a flexible tube up into the aorta and through the coronary arteries in order to analyze blood flow and identify any blockages.3

Diagnostic tests are often classified as non-invasive or invasive. Non-invasive diagnostic tests may include the use of a needle for blood tests or IV injection of contrast. Invasive procedures can include surgical insertion of a catheter, medical device, appliance, or scope.4

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