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Electrocardiogram (ECG, heart tracing)

An ECG is a recording of your heart beat. Stickers/ patches are placed on your skin to measure the electrical impulses given off by your heart. The result is a trace that can be read by a doctor. It can give information of previous heart attacks or problems with the heart rhythm.

Exercise stress test (treadmill test)

An ECG whilst at rest may be normal despite significant blockages. An exercise ECG makes the heart work harder so that if there is any blood vessel narrowing, poor blood supply signs may be picked up on the heart tracings.

For this test you will walk on a treadmill while your heart is carefully monitored. The treadmill gets faster with time but you can stop at any time.

This test is used to see if there is any evidence of blockages. It helps decide how severe the problem is, what further tests are needed, and how is it best treated.

Echocardiogram (heart ultrasound)

This test is performed by a specially trained technician or doctor. It is a test that uses ultrasound to get pictures of your heart. The test is painless and usually takes around 30 minutes.

Coronary angiogram

This procedure is performed by an interventional cardiologist in an operating theatre environment.

You will be asked not to eat or drink after midnight the evening before the procedure or to skip breakfast if your procedure is in the afternoon. You are awake throughout and the procedure is painless. Local anaesthetic is put into an area of skin of either your arm, or sometimes (less likely) the groin. A small tube (catheter) is then passed into an artery (blood vessel) and advanced to the heart. The local anaesthetic stings for a few seconds but after that you do not feel anything. Dye (contrast) is then injected so that the heart and blood vessels can be seen under X-ray.

Following the procedure patients will recover in a bed or recliner for a couple of hours and will to go home the same day.

Coronary angioplasty and stenting

Coronary angioplasty (stenting), also known as percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), is a procedure designed to treat blockages in the heart arteries.

The procedure follows on from an angiogram as described above. The blockage is often first cleared or reduced with a small balloon followed by placement of a "stent": a stent is a small mesh-tube (or "metal coil") acting like scaffolding that keeps the artery (blood vessel) open.

After the procedure patients are able to sit up and walk around in an hour or two and discharged home within 4 to 6 hours. The recovery is very short given the minimally invasive nature of the procedure.