Charlottesville Cardiac Imaging and Diagnostic Tests

Sentara Martha Jefferson’s Charlottesville cardiac imaging and diagnostic tests help our doctors determine your specific heart condition. Many of these cardiac function tests are outpatient tests.

  • Echocardiogram

    An echocardiogram is a painless procedure that records the movement of blood through the chambers and valves of your heart. It is commonly used to evaluate valvular heart disease, chest pain (angina), heart attack (myocardial infarction) or coronary artery disease. It takes about 30 to 60 minutes. We place gel on your chest and use a small hand-held device to take pictures of your heart.

    A stress echocardiogram has the added component of exercise. We monitor how your heart performs before, during and after exercise. This procedure can take up to two hours. 

  • Electrocardiogram (EKG)

    An EKG is a painless procedure that records the electrical activity of the heart. It is used to evaluate the cause of shortness of breath, lightheadedness, dizziness (syncope), chest pain (angina), palpitations and congenital heart problems. We place electrodes on your arms, legs and chest to record a series of heartbeats that will help determine your diagnosis.

  • Event Monitor

    We use an event monitor to record heart rhythm when you are experiencing symptoms, such as dizziness, palpitations, shortness of breath, fainting spells or chest pain, among others. This allows us to discover arrhythmias that may be causing symptoms. An event monitor is similar to a Holter monitor. For both tests, you wear a very small, portable monitoring device over a period of time (anywhere from two to four weeks). When you have a cardiac event, you just push a button to record what is happening with the heart. The device sends the recorded data to your doctor for analysis. Event monitors are beneficial when rhythm changes might not be captured with a 24-hour Holter Monitor.

  • Exercise Stress Exam

    Your physician may order an exercise stress exam to test your heart’s response to exercise and evaluate the cause of chest pain (angina), heart attack (myocardial infarction), coronary artery disease or shortness of breath. During the test, you will walk on a treadmill at various speeds and elevations to see if you experience any symptoms or heart rhythm changes.

  • Holter Monitor

    A Holter monitor is a device that continuously monitors your heart rhythm for an extended period. It is commonly used to evaluate the cause of shortness of breath, lightheadedness, dizziness (syncope), chest pain (angina), palpitations or congenital heart problems. It can detect irregular heartbeats as well as evaluate pacemaker performance and drug therapy effectiveness. While you wear the monitor, you keep a diary of your activities and symptoms.

    This monitor often records the heart rhythm for 24 hours but can be kept in place for longer. The device, about the size of a small transistor radio, attaches either to shoulder straps or to a belt. It has multiple wires (called leads) that we tape to your chest. The doctor will inform you when and where the monitor will be removed

  • Nuclear Exercise Stress Exam

    A nuclear exercise stress exam is a more specific test. It evaluates your heart’s response to exercise as well as the amount of blood flow to your heart muscle when you rest and when you exercise. It is commonly used to evaluate the cause of chest pain (angina), heart attack (myocardial infarction), coronary artery disease or shortness of breath.

    • An IV is placed in an arm vein to administer a nuclear tracer. This tracer is different than contrast dye and usually does not affect kidney function.
    • The material enables us to image the blood flow through the arteries to your heart. We will scan you both before and after exercise on the treadmill.
    • The treadmill portion takes approximately 10 minutes and each scan takes about 30 minutes. The entire test can last approximately three to four hours. Occasionally for taller and bigger patients, the test will occur on two different days.
    • A pharmacological nuclear stress test may be performed when a patient is unable to walk on a treadmill.


  • Transesophageal Echocardiogram

    A transesophageal echocardiogram takes pictures of the heart from within the esophagus. It is commonly used to evaluate blood clots before cardioversion or valvular disease. Before the procedure, we numb your throat so that you can swallow a tube with a tiny camera at the tip. The tube travels down your esophagus. The camera takes pictures of the heart and blood vessels from angles that are otherwise impossible or difficult to view.

    Generally, the whole procedure takes one to two hours, but the probe is down for less than 10 minutes. You will receive conscious sedation to help you relax during the exam.