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Cardiovascular Imaging and Heart Scans

Through the use of advanced cardiac imaging techniques our NorthShore experts can better diagnose, treat and manage a wide range of cardiovascular conditions and diseases, including structural heart disease, coronary artery disease, heart failure and peripheral artery disease.

At the NorthShore Cardiovascular Institute, our cardiac imaging capabilities help provide a comprehensive evaluation of a patient’s cardiovascular condition.

Our team utilizes various complimentary imaging techniques—from bicycle stress echo tests, advanced nuclear testing to innovative stress cardiac MRI —to both identify cardiovascular issues in symptomatic patients as well as monitor and treat patients who have been diagnosed with a heart condition.

Our skilled team is highly trained at determining the best cardiovascular imaging technique(s) needed for patients, based on their unique medical history, symptoms and risk factors. We work collaboratively as a team of clinical experts and with your referring physician to customize care.

With convenient locations across the Chicagoland area, we offer accessible cardiovascular imaging services at all nine of our locations.

The following advanced imaging techniques are utilized at NorthShore:

Echocardiogram (Echo) | Nuclear Testing | Cardiac MRI | Cardiac CT | Vascular Imaging

Echocardiogram (Echo)

An echo, or ultrasound of the heart, is a non-invasive imaging technique that allows cardiologists to examine the structure of the heart, including the valves and muscles. It can also be used to assess how well the heart is working, and can be particularly helpful to diagnose or evaluate congenital heart defects, heart disease, chest pains, coronary artery disease, heart attack and murmurs.

At NorthShore, we have highly-trained experts in echo testing and we offer some of the most innovative, advanced techniques, not currently available at many other health systems in the area. We offer complete echocardiography services and customize our approach based on the specific needs of the patient. Our echocardiography imaging services at all four hospitals are accredited by the Intersocietal Accreditation Commission (IAC).

Dependent on your unique condition and symptoms, your cardiologist may perform one or more of the following echocardiograms:

  • Transthoracic Echo (TTE) – This is the most commonly performed echo, and is done by placing a transducer (or probe) on the surface of the chest. This test is often used for patients with heart murmurs, heart failure and valve issues (leaky or clogged). It is also used to follow a patient over time when symptoms change.
  • Transesophageal Echo (TEE) – TEE is done by inserting a flexible tube in through your throat for a more detailed picture of the heart and valves. This imaging test can help with modeling of the heart. By creating a 3D view of heart, it can help our cardiovascular experts visualize the heart before appropriate treatments. This type of echo is most commonly used to assess structural heart disease [link]. When coupled with cardiac CT and MRI images, a transesophageal echo can provide a comprehensive picture of the heart’s structure.
  • Stress Echo – For this type of echocardiogram, images are taken both before and after physical activity. Physical activity is done either by a treadmill workout or by giving a pharmacological agent that simulates the heart pumping during exercise. This technique is frequently used to assess coronary artery function or in cases of known or expected heart disease. It is also often used when there is a change in cardiac symptoms.
  • Bike Stress Echo – This comprehensive imaging technique provides real-time images of the heart throughout the entire course of the test.  In this test, a patient pedals on a bike with their legs slightly elevated, which allows for simultaneous echo test. This test allows our team to see a cardiac issue develop in tandem with its symptoms. It also lets our team identify a cardiac problem prior to symptoms appearing.
  • Dyssynchrony Echo – This type of echo is used for patients with arrhythmias and can be very helpful with device management, such as a pacemaker, as well as choosing the most effective device to treat a cardiovascular condition.

At the Cardiovascular Institute, our imaging team is on the forefront of innovations to the field so that we are able to improve the accuracy of our imaging to offer the best, most customized treatments and interventions. 

Advanced Nuclear Imaging

Nuclear imaging techniques allow for our clinical experts to get a closer look at how a patient’s heart is working. Cardiac nuclear testing is done to assess the blood flow to the heart and to determine the overall strength of the heart muscle. These tests involve a small dosage of a radioactive tracer (taken either through injection or orally). A high-end gamma camera detects photons from this tracer and produces images of the heart accordingly.

NorthShore has some of the most advanced technology in place for performing cardiac nuclear testing, including the revolutionary solid state CZT (cadmium zinc telluride) gamma camera used by our team, which dramatically reduces both the time and radiation exposure required to perform the test. This not only provides our patients with a safer nuclear test option, but this advanced technology also ensures that our team has the most accurate, quality images available to best determine, diagnose and treat cardiovascular conditions, such as coronary artery disease and the cause of various heart disease symptoms, including chest pain or shortness of breath.

Some of the specific nuclear testing our team utilizes includes:

  • Cardiac Nuclear Stress Testing – Nuclear stress testing is done when the heart it is at rest as well as when it is stressed (done either by exercise, medicine or both). This stress test helps provide our cardiovascular team with insight on areas of low blood flow, damaged tissue and overall heart muscle strength. It is most commonly used to diagnose coronary artery disease
  • PET – A positron emission tomography (PET) scan helps identify the viability or overall health of the heart muscle. More viable, functioning heart tissue will display differently on the image than tissue that is either dead or injured, making it easy for our cardiovascular team to identify which areas of the heart will improve with revascularization (such as stents or bypass surgery).

    A PET scan is commonly used to determine the amount of damage caused to the heart after a heart attack, and can also be used to diagnose coronary artery disease as well as other less diagnosed conditions such as sarcoidosis (inflammatory cells) and cardiomyopathy. This test can also help guide and evaluate treatment for a variety of cardiovascular conditions, including congestive heart failure.

Cardiac MRI

This cardiac test is used for assessing and evaluating heart function in a non-invasive way without the use of radiation. This test is used to evaluate heart size, structure, valve disease and heart muscle viability. With its ability to characterize heart tissue, a cardiac MRI can help tremendously to diagnose the cause of heart failure

Depending on the specific case, our cardiac imaging experts are also able to perform stress cardiac MRI to evaluate for coronary artery disease. Our Cardiovascular Institute is one of a few institutions in the area that employs this robust technique.

Cardiac CT

Cardiac computed tomography (CT) is an imaging technique that allows physicians to get a clear look at the coronary arteries. This rapid test utilizes detailed x-ray images typically with contrast dye—to help identify potential blockages that may cause chest pain and lead to heart attacks.

 Cardiac CT scans can also help provide interventional and electrophysiology physicians with a roadmap for how to best treat other cardiovascular conditions.

At NorthShore, our team is committed to staying up-to-date on innovations and advancements in CT technology, both to improve quality as well as to minimize a patient’s exposure to radiation.

Vascular Imaging

Our cardiovascular team employs various imaging techniques to better diagnose and treat vascular issues associated with veins and arteries. Our team utilizes MRI and CT scans to assess vascular conditions as well as the following additional imaging tests:

  • Vascular Ultrasound (Arterial and Venous)  –  Non-invasive imaging tests help our team identify blood clots and other blockages in both the arteries and veins. These tests are very commonly used to help diagnose peripheral arterial occlusive disease, peripheral aneurysms, aortic aneurysms, venous reflux/varicose veins and deep venous thrombosis (DVT). All of our vascular ultrasound exams are performed in our accredited vascular laboratories by certified technologists.
  • Angiogram –  An angiogram is a commonly used invasive technique, where  a small catheter is inserted into an artery, and contrast dye is injected into the blood vessels of interest. The physician takes pictures to look for problems with the blood vessels. An angiogram may be used to help make a diagnosis. It may also be used in conjunction with minimally invasive therapy, such as stent placement to open a blocked vessel.

    CT Angiogram: Along with a CT scan, our team of experts may also use a  CT Angiogram. This special CT scan helps our team of experts look more specifically at the blood vessels themselves. This test allows our team to better evaluate a narrowing or blockage in a blood vessel, generally caused by a buildup of fat (cholesterol) or calcium. It can also be used to help better determine the size and shape of a bulging vessel (aneurysm) or a tear in a vessel (dissection).

    MR Angiogram: An MR Angiogram is a special MR scan, which helps us look more specifically at the blood vessels themselves. This test allows us to better evaluate a narrowing or blockage in a blood vessel, generally caused by a buildup of fat (cholesterol) or calcium.  It can also help us better determine the size and shape of a bulging vessel (aneurysm) or a tear in a vessel (dissection).

At the NorthShore Cardiovascular Institute, our team of cardiovascular experts will determine the best cardiac imaging test or tests to utilize based on your unique medical history, symptoms and risk factors. We use some of the most advanced imaging technology and equipment to provide highly accurate, quality images to best guide diagnosis and treatment.

For more information about our advanced cardiovascular imaging services, please call 224.251.5950