Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Cardiac Testing and Update Part II

3 April 2012

The next test I had was the exercise EKG or “Stress Test”. There’s two different ways to take this test and that is via the treadmill and “chemical”. I’ve had both and vastly prefer the treadmill test. This test makes you physically exert yourself on the treadmill and your heart activity is monitored to see how well it performs before, during and after exercise. The chemical test does the same thing except that the results are derived chemically with no actual physical exertion on your part. I find the chemical test to be unsettling and afterwards I feel as though aliens had snatched me and experimented on me.

The stress test is done in three parts. First an IV is inserted in your arm or hand. Then you are given an IV injection containing a radioactive dye. A CT scan of your heart is taken and this takes about 25 minutes to complete. The actual scan is about 15 minutes long. This gives a “before” picture of your heart.

After your initial scan, you are then shaved, if you are male or otherwise hairy, and electrodes are attached to your chest area. You get on the treadmill and start the exercise portion of your test. It’s not unlike any other treadmill you would find in any home or gym. At this point a cardiologist is normally present to observe the test. The pace starts off slow and progresses in both resistance/incline and speed. The duration of the treadmill test depends largely on how you are doing. When the technician or cardiologist determine that you are about to reach the highest “safe” level of exertion for your condition, they will inject another dose of radioactive dye via the IV in your arm or hand. Once injected, the test will last for at least one more minute after that. I have had 4 treadmill stress tests done since 2003. I feel that last week’s test was my best result as far as how I felt during and after the test. This test lasted all of 9 minutes and while I felt exerted, I felt like I could have lasted much longer and possibly gone to a higher incline and speed. I felt no chest or neck pains, was not winded and the only discomfort I felt was in my calf muscles. I remember my first stress test in 2003 and not doing so well.

Once the treadmill portion was finished, the electrodes and the IV were removed. I was given another CT scan of my heart that took another 25 minutes or so. This would give the cardiologist an “after” picture of my heart. With this test, he was able to determine how well my heart performed during exertion. As I have had heart attacks in my past, part of my heart is damaged. The scans show the areas where no blood flow occurs as a result but overall my heart performs excellently. Blood flows throughout the majority of my heart.

The final test was an ultrasound of the carotid (neck) arteries taking blood to the brain. Ever since I first started having this test done in 2003, I have always had very slight plaque build-up in the carotids. I am very happy to say that this has not changed. This test is nothing more than a Doppler ultrasound with the technician taking measurements of the arteries and of any plaque in there. The blood/oxygen flow was measured as well. This test took another 30 minutes tops. Completely non-invasive and the results provide a clear picture of what is going on in the bloods passage way to the brain.

And that was it for this round of testing! We reported to the hospital that morning at 0700 AM and we were leaving the hospital by 1030 later that same morning. The following morning we met with my cardiologist to discuss the results and he happily reported the good news. That despite my overall condition, my heart health was excellent for someone who has had a 6 vessel bypass. He’s not too happy about my not taking statins anymore but the numbers and now these test results back up my belief that I may not need them. We will revisit that decision in a few months with another blood workup but so long as I remain active and watch my diet, I should live a fairly normal, healthy life, at least as far as my heart health is concerned.

Tomorrow I am going to talk about my blindness.

Have a Blessed Day Ya’ll!!

Today’s “Did Ya Know?” Today is “National Don't Go To Work Unless It's Fun” Day!!! Know what that means? That means it’s a day off for most of you! Unless of course you have a job that you consider fun or otherwise enjoy soooo much, it doesn’t seem like work and you can’t believe you get paid for it!!!! Geez, what job fits that description??? Maybe if I was a professional food taster or beer drinker? That could be fun but I’m sure someone would come along and make rules and all that other grown up stuff. So call in sick people and enjoy the day off!!!!

Related Links:

WebMD article on the “Treadmill” Stress test:

WebMD article on the Doppler Ultrasound scan for Carotid arteries:

Holiday website for “National Don't Go To Work Unless It's Fun Day”:

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