If you've been experiencing symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, or palpitations, your doctor may refer you for some cardiology diagnostic tests. These tests could include an electrocardiogram (ECG), an echocardiogram (echo), or a stress test, as well as more complex tests such as angiograms and Cardiac MRI.
ECG, echo and stress tests are painless and non-invasive, and they can help your doctor diagnose any heart conditions you may have. They'll work with you to develop a personalised treatment plan to improve your heart health and prevent any further complications.
Following the test, your doctor will discuss the results with you. They may request further testing, or recommend changes in your lifestyle and/or medication to help improve your health.
At Blackrock Health, we have some of Ireland's most respected cardiologists, and cardiac & vascular surgeons on our team. No other hospital group in Ireland has as many female cardiologists. The Blackrock Clinic, in particular, has a long history of pioneering the newest heart treatments and procedures. Our three hospitals, the Blackrock, Galway, and Hermitage Clinics, ensure best practice in care. We provide minimally invasive treatments and the latest technology as well as traditional open-heart techniques. Blackrock Health also offers fast access to the five cath labs in our three hospitals. We provide the most accurate diagnostics and effective care plan possible, with the least possible delay. We offer easy access to our teams of consultants and clinical experts and are committed to helping you achieve optimal heart and vascular health.
Cardiology outpatient diagnostic tests take place in our specialised cardiology clinic. In most cases, these tests are routine, non-invasive and need no special preparation.
Common tests may include:
- electrocardiogram (ECG) to check the heart’s rhythm and electrical activity,
- echocardiogram (echo) to look at the valves of the heart,
- stress test to assess how well the heart works during physical activity.
Further tests may include imaging studies such as CT scans or MRIs. Cardiac catheterisation can also be advised. This allows for direct visualisation of the coronary arteries for any blockage. These procedures are used to diagnose any underlying conditions or problems more clearly.
Test results at Blackrock Health are reported on by our Consultant Cardiologists. We are committed to helping you achieve optimal heart and vascular health.
Some of the most frequently requested cardiac diagnostics are outlined on this page.
An Electrocardiogram (ECG) is a cardiac diagnostic test. It is a safe and painless procedure that records the electrical activity of your heart.
During the test, your cardiac physiologist will place electrodes on your chest, arms and legs. These sensors measure the electrical impulses generated by your heart. The results are transmitted to an ECG machine. An ECG recording (sometimes called a 'trace') will show your heartbeat. The cardiac physiologist can see if it is regular or irregular, too slow, too fast, or both.
Your cardiac team uses the results of your ECG to diagnose diseases, assess their severity, and determine which treatment may be best for you.
An ECG can help detect cardiovascular diseases. The list can include heart attack, irregular heartbeat, and other heart-related conditions. An ECG can also help your doctor determine if you're at risk for underlying conditions or have a history of them.
ECG can also be used to monitor the effectiveness of treatments you may be taking for existing cardiovascular conditions. When combined with other tests and assessments, it can help provide more detailed information about your specific condition. It can also help identify other potential cardiac issue that could be present.
The test usually takes about 30 minutes and is carried out in the Cardiology Department. The results of the test are seen later by your doctor.
An echocardiogram, also known as an echo test, is a simple and painless procedure used to evaluate the function of your heart. It is a type of ultrasound, which uses sound waves to create pictures that show the size and shape of the different parts of your heart.
Your doctor can use an echo to diagnose problems with the structure of the heart, such as the heart chambers or the heart valves.
An echo can help your cardiac team to decide if you need further tests to evaluate your heart health. It is a safe and important procedure used in diagnosing and monitoring certain heart issues. If a diagnosis is made, they can then plan a treatment path for managing your condition.
During the test, a cardiac physiologist spreads a jelly onto your chest , then glides a paddle or probe across the chest. The sound waves produced by the echo are converted to images on a screen, which are then recorded. These are subsequently interpreted by a cardiologist. It is not necessary to be admitted to the hospital for this procedure, which takes about 30 minutes. The result of the test is then sent to your Consultant or GP.
Exercise Stress Test
An exercise stress test is an outpatient procedure that measures how well your heart responds to physical exertion. During the test, you are connected to an electrocardiogram (ECG) machine. This will record your heart's electrical activity.
Your cardiac physiologist will ask you to walk on a treadmill, while they gradually increase the level of the exercise. The goal is to raise your heart rate to a specific target level, which is determined by your age and physical condition. They will monitor your heart rate, blood pressure, and ECG readings throughout the procedure.
The exercise stress test can be used to evaluate chest pain, shortness of breath, or other symptoms that suggest a problem with your heart. It can help diagnose coronary artery disease, irregular heart rhythms, and other heart conditions. It can also assess the effectiveness of medications or other treatments you may be receiving.
After the exercise part of the test is complete, you will rest for a few minutes while your heart rate and blood pressure are monitored. The entire test takes between 30 minutes to an hour, including preparation and recovery time.
The exercise stress test is generally safe and non-invasive. Your doctor will tell you whether it is appropriate for your individual situation.
24-Hour Holter Monitor
A 24-hour Holter monitor is a portable device used to track the electrical activity of the heart over a 24-hour period. It is a type of electrocardiogram (ECG) that records the heart's rhythm continuously while you carry on with your daily activities.
The device is usually attached to your chest with electrodes that are connected to wires that lead to a small recording device. The device is about the size of a large mobile phone, and can be worn on a lanyard, clipped on a belt or carried in a pocket.
During the 24-hour monitoring period, you are asked to go about your daily activities as normal. The device records the electrical signals of the heart. The recordings are later analysed by a doctor or physiologist to detect any abnormalities in the heart's rhythm.
A 24-hour Holter monitor is typically used to diagnose and track irregular heartbeats, such as arrhythmias. It can also evaluate the effectiveness of medications or other treatments for heart conditions. It is a non-invasive and painless test that can provide valuable information about the heart's function.
Some Holter monitors can be worn for 48 hours or 72 hours instead of just 24 hours. These longer recording times may be necessary to capture infrequent or intermittent heart rhythm abnormalities.
In addition to longer recording times, there are also event monitors that can be worn for weeks or months at a time. Event monitors are similar to holter monitors, but they are activated by the patient when they experience symptoms - such as palpitations or dizziness. When the monitor is activated, it records the heart rhythm for a specified period of time, such as one minute.
Finally, there are also implantable loop recorders, which are small devices that are implanted under the skin of the chest. These devices can continuously monitor the heart rhythm for up to three years. They are often used in patients who experience infrequent symptoms that are difficult to capture with other types of monitoring devices. [LINK to Electrophysiology (EP) & Pacing page]
24-Hour Blood Pressure (BP) Monitor
A 24-hour blood pressure monitor is a device used to measure and record blood pressure readings over a 24-hour period. The device consists of a small, portable machine that you wear and which is connected to a blood pressure cuff wrapped around the upper arm.
The blood pressure monitor is programmed to take readings at specific intervals throughout the day and night. The setting is usually every 15 to 30 minutes during the daytime, and every 30 to 60 minutes at night. The monitor stores the readings in its memory, which can later be downloaded and analysed by your cardiac team.
The use of a 24-hour blood pressure monitor allows your doctor to get a more accurate picture of your blood pressure throughout the day. This includes your readings during normal activities and when asleep. This can help identify conditions such as "white coat hypertension" - when a patient's blood pressure is higher in a medical setting due to anxiety or stress. It can also provide more information for the management of high blood pressure.
Transoesophageal Echocardiogram (TOE)
This is an invasive cardiac ultrasound. It allows a more detailed examination of the heart valves and major blood vessels than a standard echocardiogram. Instead of obtaining images through the chest wall, the ultrasound probe is passed into the oesophagus (gullet).
A TOE probe is passed down the throat, and positioned behind the heart. High-frequency sound waves are emitted, which bounce off the heart and surrounding tissues, and are detected by the probe. These sound waves are then converted into images that can be viewed on a monitor.
At Blackrock Health, the TOE is performed in a specialised area, near the operating theatre, or the cath lab, by a cardiologist and cardiac team. The procedure usually takes about 30-60 minutes, and patients may be instructed not to eat or drink for a few hours before the test. The test is carried out under sedation.
After the procedure, patients are usually monitored for a short time. This is to ensure there are no complications, such as bleeding or difficulty swallowing.
CT Coronary Angiogram (Cardiac CT Scan)
A cardiac CT is a test to view your coronary arteries, which are the blood vessels that supply blood to your heart.
Calcium Score Scan
This CT scan detects calcium deposits in the coronary arteries of your heart.
Cardiac MRI Scan
Cardiac MRI images show the parts of your heart and any damage to specific areas. [LINK to Specialist MRI scans]
How do I get this?
You will need a referral letter from your GP or consultant before you make an appointment.
Is this insured?
Not all services are covered by health insurance. To find out if you're covered, please check your health insurance before your visit. You can do this on our health insurance Cover Check page, or by contacting your health insurer.
How do I pay?
If you do not have health insurance or your health plan does not cover the full cost, you will need to pay the balance due before your treatment or procedure. You may be able to claim back some fees on your insurance. To pay an excess not covered by your insurance or any other inpatient fees, please visit our payment page. If you have any queries about paying for your care, please contact the finance team in your hospital.