Heart and Vascular Frequently Asked Questions

Echocardiogram

  • What is an echocardiogram?
    • An echocardiogram (echo) is a standard non-invasive test that outlines the heart’s movement. During an exam, a hand-held transducer is placed on your chest to ultrasound (high-frequency sounds waves) the valves, chambers and structure of the heart, as well as helps the sonographer evaluate the pumping action of the heart. The transducer records the sound wave echoes from your heart. These images are then sent to a reading station for the cardiologist to read the images, finalize the study and send the results back to your Ordering Physician.
  • How long will the test take?
    • The test takes 30 to 45 minutes on average and may require an additional 15 minutes if an IV is needed for further testing.
  • Do I need to stop taking my medications for this test?
    • No, you do not need to stop taking your medications for the exam. Your medications will not affect the test. However, if you have any other tests the same day, please be aware of their directions, as they may ask you to stop the use of certain medications.
  • Can I eat or drink before the exam?
    • Yes, you may eat or drink before this exam. However, if you have any other tests that day, please be aware of their directions, as they may ask you not to eat or drink.
  • I have a device (pacemaker or ICD) in place. Will this affect my device?
    • This test is an ultrasound and has no magnets that could affect your device.
  • Will this hurt at all?
    • This test is not painful; however there are times a sonographer may have to use a little more pressure pushing on your chest to get the best image quality possible. We want you to have the best quality exam possible and if your heart is not imaged well, an IV may need to be placed to use an image enhancement to improve image quality. This is at the discretion of the patient.
  • When will I get my results for the echocardiogram?
    • The attending cardiologist will read your echocardiogram on the day of service as well as send the finalized report to your ordering physician. Depending on how your physician handles your records, you may need to call and schedule a follow-up appointment to get the results.
  • Can you see the stents in my heart?
    • No, we cannot see stents in the arteries of the heart. We cannot even see the arteries leading to the heart, as they are too small for the ultrasound waves to pick up. However, if your heart is not functioning correctly due to severe blockage in the arteries, we will see the heart squeeze abnormally.
  • What does the color show you?
    • The color shown during your echocardiogram is for the sonographer to see the direction of the blood flow. The color will show them if there is any backward flow that would cause a “murmur.”

Holter

  • Can I shower while wearing the Holter monitor?
    • No, the device cannot be submerged in water. You can sponge bathe.
  • Can I exercise with the Holter monitor?
    • Yes, we want you to continue your regular daily activities.

ECG

  • Is the ECG machine going to shock me?
    • No, the machine measures electrical activity from your heart. There is no electrical current coming from the machine.
  • What does the ECG machine do?
    • It captures the electrical activity of your heart.

Stress Lab

  • What is this a stress test for?
    • This test is to check your heart for any potential problems or abnormalities that could be causing your symptoms.
  • Should I take my medications the day of my test?
    • Please take your medications as directed by your doctor.
  • Do I need someone to drive me?
    • The test will not impair your ability to drive.
  • How long will I be on the treadmill?
    • The actual time spent on the treadmill varies from patient to patient. You can expect to be walking between six and 12 minutes.
  • When will I get my results?
    • Your results will be available in your electronic medical record the next business day. You should follow up with your primary doctor to get your results.
  • What should I wear?
    • You should wear something that you are able to walk comfortably in, including footwear.

Cardiac Cath Lab Procedures

  • When can I shower?
    • For the first 24 hours sponge bathe and keep the site dry. You may shower 24 hours after the procedure. Remove your dressing if it's still intact. It is unnecessary to place another dressing to the site. Avoid baths or full submersion for two weeks after the procedure or until the insertion site is completely healed.
  • When can I eat?
    • Most often you are able to eat once you are settled into the recovery area. On occasion you may be required to lay flat for up to four hours. If that's the case, you will be given a “finger-food diet” so you can eat while remaining flat.
  • When can I resume all prescribed medications?
    • Please ask your cardiologist which medications you should continue/discontinue at home.
  • Will I be awake for the procedure?
    • Yes, well, sort of. During most procedures in the Cardiac Cath Lab you will be receiving what we call “conscious sedation”. In this state you will be breathing on your own and have the ability to follow simple commands such as: “Turn your head” or “Lift your right arm”. It’s possible you may remember some of the procedure. However, for most patients, they do not recall the procedure itself. The medicine we give during conscious sedation is similar if you have had a broken bone straightened or a colonoscopy.
  • Will the procedure be painful?
    • Most patients have no complaints. In the beginning when the doctor injects numbing medication under the skin before gaining access to your arteries and/or veins, there is a short, temporary burning sensation. Some patients have reported pain when the access device is removed from the groin. The pain is temporary and becomes similar to the pain of an ordinary bruise.
  • Can my family be in the room with me?
    • In the Cardiac Cath Lab, our procedures operate similar to a surgery. We have to wear special clothing and masks and provide the same sterile environment to lower risk for infection. Unfortunately, we don’t allow family members in the room during the procedure. Family members are welcome to wait in the surgical waiting room just 10 feet from the door to the lab. Our physicians will meet with family after the procedure is complete and to provide updates as necessary.
  • Will I have to stay the night?
    • It depends on the procedure, and whether or not the doctor is needed to address a problem. If we place a stent in one of your heart’s arteries, you will have to spend the night. We do a night of observation to ensure your safety as a patient.
  • Are there any restrictions after the procedure?
    • Yes. The most immediate restriction is not to lift anything as heavy as a gallon of milk (about 8 pounds) for two weeks. The muscles used in lifting can cause your freshly healed surgical site to leak. This complication can prolong your healing and even be dangerous. Please contact our office immediately if this has happened.
      In addition, keeping the surgical site dry and intact for the first 24 hours is also very important, as mentioned.
  • When will I receive the results from the procedure?
    • The doctor who performed the procedure typically speaks with your family about the results immediately following the procedure.
  • Can I drive myself home?
    • You cannot drive home after the procedure. You were given medication during the procedure that will impair your ability to operate a car and heavy machinery; you would be considered legally impaired. In addition, driving requires muscles and arteries to work, placing you at greater risk of bleeding after the procedure. We recommend you have a family member or friend drive you home. If this is not possible, you’re welcome to leave with permission from the doctor.
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