Common Heart Procedures for Patients

My Heart Procedure is a patient information website designed by a cardiologist.  Learn all there is to know about the basics of the heart and common heart procedures.  Patients are usually anxious about procedures especially when it comes to the heart.  Here you will find out what is a certain procedure, why certain procedures are performed, what to expect in respect to the heart procedure, what risks are involved, what to do in preparation for your heart procedure, what are the expectations, and results.

Learn all of what a patient should know in respect to EKG, Holter Monitor, Coronary angiogram or heart cath, stress test (nuclear stress test, exercise stress test, chemical stress test, echocardiogram stress test), echocardiogram (TTE or transthoracic echocardiogram; TEE or transesophageal echocardiogram), and more.

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EKG is by far the most common procedure performed on patients.  EKG machines are portable and may be performed just about anywhere.  Most likely places to get an EKG are: doctor’s offices, emergency room visit, pre-operatively, and before another heart procedure.  An EKG is usually performed for: chest pain, shortness of breath, palpitations, racing heart, dizziness, syncope or passing out, or to monitor the effects of certain medications on the conduction time across the heart.

Certain medications of the anti-arrhythmic class may cause changes to the conduction system of the heart.  Periodic EKGs are needed to make sure the changes are not life-threatening.

The EKG is a painless test.  It usually takes 10 minutes to perform.



Transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE) is the second most common heart procedure.  Echocardiogram machines are portable and may performed in doctor’s offices or in the hospital.  Most common symptoms to have an echocardiogram ordered: chest pain, shortness of breath, to assess heart valves (aortic valve, mitral valve, tricuspid valve, or pulmonic valve), to assess the wall motion of the heart (abnormalities of the heart muscle itself), palpitations, to assess ejection fraction (EF or LVEF), dizziness, syncope or passing out.

The transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE) is a painless, non-invasive test.  It takes 30-60 minutes to compete the test.

For transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE), click here


Stress Test

The stress test is the third most common heart procedure.  The exam is usually performed in doctor’s offices or hospital.  There are some emergency rooms equipped with stress test capabilities.  The most common reasons to have a stress ordered: chest pain, shortness of breath, pre-operatively, to assess effectiveness of treatments, or for certain needed physicals (pilots, commercial vehicle operators, etc).

There are different kinds of stress tests.  Some kinds of stress tests: exercise treadmill stress test, chemical stress test, nuclear stress test, echocardiogram stress test.

Stress tests range from 15 minutes-3 hours total time, depending on the stress test chosen.

Stress test

Coronary angiogram

Coronary angiogram (commonly referred to as a heart cath) is a common heart procedure.  It is usually performed in the hospital setting, although there are some doctor’s offices that may perform this invasive test.  Common symptoms for having a coronary angiogram: myocardial infarction (MI or heart attack), recurrent chest pain of unknown cause, pre-operatively prior to open heart surgery or other high risk surgery.

Coronary angiograms are invasive.  There are risks associated with this particular heart procedure.  Obtaining the images alone may be performed by an experienced cardiologist in about 7 minutes.  The preparation, and unanticipated difficulties during the angiogram may extend the length to 1-2 hours.