Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine.
Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center

How Heart Failure is Diagnosed

If you are experiencing some of the symptoms of heart failure, you should contact your doctor immediately. He or she will review your medical history and conduct a thorough examination, including checking for risk factors such as high blood pressure.

If your doctor suspects heart failure, one or more of the following tests may be ordered:

  • Blood Tests: You will be asked to submit a blood sample so that it can be examined at the lab. Abnormal levels of substances such as sodium, potassium, albumin and/or creatinine may indicate strain on the kidneys and liver, which often results from heart failure.
  • Chest X-Ray: Most chest X-rays can be done in your doctor's office. An X-ray can show whether your heart is enlarged and whether you have congestion in your lungs, both of which are signs of heart failure.
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG): Small electrodes (round plastic discs) are placed on your chest and connected to a machine that records your heart's rhythm, frequency of beats and electrical conduction.
  • Echocardiogram: While you lie down on a table, a technician passes an ultrasound wand over your chest. The device gives off a silent sound wave that bounces off the heart to create images that can be reviewed by your doctor.
  • Cardiac CT Scan: Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center offers 64 slice cardiac CT, a revolutionary heart scan for diagnosing various heart conditions. It is an innovative alternative to more invasive tests such as cardiac catheterization.
  • Cardiac MRI: Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (C-MRI) is a noninvasive cardiac imaging process that uses radio waves, magnets and a computer to create pictures of your heart. It allows heart images to be captured in real time, providing views of blood vessels and blood flow around the heart. Houston Methodist Hospital has one of the largest C-MRI programs in the United States.
  • Coronary Catheterization (Angiogram): A catheter is used to inject a special dye (also called a contrast medium) into your heart. A technician will then take X-rays of the heart; because the X-rays pick up the contrast medium, the resulting images (angiograms) will clearly show any blockages.
  • Nuclear Cardiology: Nuclear cardiology is a cardiac imaging technique that uses technologies such as computerized tomography (CT) scanning combined with infusions of radioisotope markers (radioactive dyes) to create highly detailed two-dimensional and three-dimensional views of the heart.
  • Heart Catheterization: Catheterization is a technique where a balloon tipped catheter is placed in one side of the heart to measure the pressures within the heart and to measure heart performance. A right heart catheterization is on the right side of the heart; a left heart catheterization is on the left side.

Learn more about heart failure:

For more information about heart failure treatment at the Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center or to make an appointment, please call us at 713-DEBAKEY (713-332-2539) or complete our online contact us form.