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Heart Imaging Tests

What is a cardiac imaging test?

A heart imaging test, often called a cardiac imaging test, is like taking a picture of your heart.

Why do I need a heart imaging test?

Heart imaging tests can help your doctor examine how your heart is pumping, if valves are working correctly, check for blood flow issues, or see if there are any abnormalities like growths or holes. 

If you are experiencing any signs or symptoms of heart disease, your doctor may refer you to one of our imaging centers so he or she can get a better understanding of your heart problem. This is part of the expert and comprehensive care we offer at Banner Health to ensure you or your loved one are receiving the best treatment possible.

What are the different types of heart tests?

There are several types of heart imaging tests. Your doctor will decide on the best test for an accurate diagnosis. Cardiac testing options may include:

Stress tests

Stress testing is one of the most common types of heart imaging. Stress tests are done in three different steps: 

  • First, an IV is started and a small amount of radioactive tracers are injected through the IV. Then images are taken of the heart to show how the blood flows to the heart muscle when you are resting.
  • Then while being monitored with an electrocardiogram (EKG) you will walk on a treadmill or receive a medication through an IV that simulates exercise. While the heart is working harder through exercise or the medication, another small amount of radioactive tracers are injected through the IV. These tracers only stay in the body for a few minutes. 
  • After the exercise portion is completed, another set of pictures is taken to show how blood flowed through the heart during exercise. Your doctor will compare the two sets of pictures to see if there are any differences in blood flow to the heart from when you are resting compared to when you are exercising. 

If there are significant differences between the two pictures, it might mean there is a narrowing in one of the heart arteries that makes it difficult for blood to flow freely during exercise.


Echocardiography uses high-frequency sound waves (ultrasound) to examine your heart. There are many different types of echocardiograms, such as:

  • Transthoracic (TTE): The most common type of cardiac ultrasound. An ultrasound transducer is placed on the chest and creates images of different structures of the heart including the heart walls and valves.
  • Transesophageal (TEE): An ultrasound transducer on an endoscope (small camera) is passed into a patient’s esophagus so the structures of the heart can be seen from different angles.
  • Doppler or color doppler: A specialized ultrasound device is used in both TEE and TTE to help your doctor to determine speed and direction of blood flow.
  • 2D or 3D: These images are used to show the structures of the heart in different ways and help compare various areas of the heart. 
  • Stress echo: A transthoracic (TTE) echo is done during the exercise portion of a stress test.

The type of echocardiogram used will depend on what your doctor is looking for.

Is an ECG the same as an EKG?

Yes. Both ECG and EKG are an accepted abbreviation for an electrocardiogram. 


An angiogram is a type of heart imaging that uses specialized types of X-ray to look inside the heart.

  • A CT angiogram is a special kind of CT (CAT) scan that can show narrowed or blocked areas of a blood vessel.
  • A cardiac catheterization is a type of angiography in which your doctor injects contrast dye directly into the blood vessels and structures of the heart through the wrist or groin artery. Once the contrast is injected specialized X-ray creates pictures of the blood flowing inside the heart blood vessels and structures, allowing your doctor to see and repair any blockages in blood flow.

Cardiac PET scan 

Positron emission tomography (PET) is another heart imaging test that physicians can use to help identify heart disease. This test evaluates different parts of the heart using a nuclear camera to take pictures. A small amount of radioactive tracers are injected into your bloodstream to help detect blockages in the arteries that supply blood to the heart. These tracers stay in your body for a very short amount of time - only seconds to minutes - but can even measure blood flow to see if the blockages are significant and require treatment. 

A cardiac PET scan can also detect inflammation in the heart due to infection or autoimmune diseases like sarcoidosis. 


Your doctor may want to monitor your heart activity over an extended period of time. In this case, you may be given an ambulatory EKG monitor.

  • Holter monitor: A non-invasive, wearable device that records heart rhythms for a specific amount of time during daily activities.
  • Event monitor: Similar to a Holter monitor but typically worn for 30 days.
  • Implanted event monitor: A very small device implanted under the skin that records the heart rhythm continually for several months. The information is collected and stored so the doctor can see the electrical function of the heart over longer periods of time.

Banner imaging centers

If your doctor does order a heart imaging test, don’t worry – you’re in good hands. Banner Health has several imaging centers with advanced equipment, comfortable amenities, and certified staff. You’ll also find convenient hours, competitive pricing, and acceptance of most insurance plans. Find a location near you.