Heart Failure Tests and Treatment

Doctors can often make a preliminary diagnosis of heart failure by medical history and careful physical examination.

What Test for Heart Failure Might I Receive? 

After a physical exam, your doctor may order some tests.

Blood tests are used to:

  • Help diagnose and monitor heart failure
  • Identify risks for heart disease
  • Look for possible causes of heart failure, or problems that may make your heart failure worse
  • Monitor for side effects of medicines you may be taking

Cardiac Catheterization

Cardiac catheterization (sometimes called a coronary angiogram, heart catheterization or, simply, a “cath”) is basically an x-ray of the heart while dye fills the coronary arteries. This allows the cardiologist to visualize the coronary arteries to evaluate possible blockage.


An echocardiogram is often the best test for heart failure. It is a non-invasive, painless test that uses sound waves to create a moving picture of the heart. The picture is much more detailed than a plain x-ray image and involves no radiation exposure.  Heart and Vascular Specialists at CHI Health  who perform Trans Es


An electrocardiogram (ECG) is a test that measures and records the electrical activity of the heart. It is also called an EKG. An electrocardiogram cannot diagnose heart failure, but it may indicate underlying heart problems. The test is simple and painless to perform. It may be used to diagnose:

  • Previous heart attack
  • Abnormal cardiac rhythms
  • Enlargement of the heart muscle, which may help to determine long-term outlook
  • A finding called a prolonged QT interval may indicate people with heart failure who are at risk for severe complications and therefore need more aggressive therapies.

A completely normal ECG means that heart failure is unlikely.

Myocardial Perfusion Imaging (MPI) Stress Test

The Myocardial Perfusion Imaging (MPI) Stress Test is basically a noninvasive way to assess the blood flow to the muscle of the heart. We inject a nuclear tracer into the blood stream and the tracer is taken up by the heart muscle cells that receive good blood flow. We image the heart with a camera that senses gamma rays released by the tracer. This basically provides us with a map of where the blood flow to the heart is adequate.

Heart Failure Treatment

Since heart failure can show in many ways, each individual's treatment may be slightly different. Certain procedures may help the heart pump better in some cases of heart failure. Certain surgeries such as an angioplasty or valve bypass surgeries can help the flow of blood in the heart.

If there is a problem with the heart rhythm, a patient may need a device such as a pacemaker or ICD to help the heart maintain a healthy rhythm.

Some procedures are done to treat health problems that may have caused the heart failure such as coronary artery disease or heart rhythm problems. If you have coronary artery disease or valve disease, procedures like a cardiac catheterization may be done to improve blood flow. This helps the heart pump better, which can improve heart failure symptoms.

For more serious heart failure, other options are available. One option is a ventricular assist devices (VADs). These are mechanical devices used to take over the pumping function for one or both of the heart's ventricles, or pumping chambers. A VAD may be necessary when heart failure progresses to the point that medicines and other treatments no longer help. In some cases, a VAD may be used as a bridge to a heart transplant.

A heart transplant replaces the diseased heart with a healthy one from a donor. This is an option for a few people who are very sick. A heart transplant is very serious and not an option for all patients. Your doctor can tell you more.