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Delray Beach Cardiologists Explain the Heart Testing Sequence

How long does it take for a doctor to diagnose “what’s ailing you” and suggest a treatment regimen to alleviate your symptoms?

Well, it depends on your symptoms. If you see your family doctor complaining of fever, coughing, a runny nose, chills, and body aches, it might take the doctor only a few minutes to say, “You’ve got the flu.” If you tell the doctor that your ankle has been hurting since your last tennis game, it might take even less time for him to say, “You’ve got a sprained ankle.”

But what if you go to see your Delray Beach cardiologist and tell him that you’ve been experiencing some tightness and occasional pain in your chest, along with a feeling that your heart is beating faster and more strongly than usual? Do you think that a Palm Beach heart doctor can diagnose “what’s ailing you” as quickly as in the two cases discussed in the previous paragraph? If so, you are likely to be disappointed. It might take several visits and a whole battery of tests before your heart specialists can identify the exact cause of your symptoms, and thus recommend how to treat them. And that’s a Good Thing.

The same symptoms can indicate minor conditions or major ones

When you first visit your Palm Beach cardiologist, he will probably take your blood pressure and check other vital signs and then ask you a number of questions about your health history and that of your close relatives. And let’s say that your blood pressure is a little high…what does that “mean?” Well, it could mean many different things. If your answers to the questions asked by the doctor revealed that you had drunk several cups of coffee before coming in, a high blood pressure reading might be the temporary result of the caffeine rather than any heart problem, so the doctor might just recommend coming back for another test, this time without drinking any coffee first. If, however, you mentioned that both of your parents have a long history of hypertension, your high reading might signal that a lot more tests were needed.

Those tests might include more blood pressure readings or even a stress test, in which your heart rate, blood pressure, and electrical activity are measured while you are walking on a treadmill, to see what happens when your heart is “under load.” If your symptoms included fast or erratic heartbeat, your doctor might order an electrocardiogram (EKG) to measure your heart’s electrical activity, or an echocardiogram to visualize its internal structures. These tests might still not be conclusive, so the next step might be computed tomography (CT) scans of your heart and arteries or positron-emission tomography (PET) or magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) scans, to see even more detail.

These tests are not arbitrary – they’re to determine the exact cause of your symptoms

Some heart problems are elusive and hard to diagnose definitively. Palpitations and arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat) can “hide” and only appear during certain circumstances. You might feel fine while sitting in the doctor’s office, for example, but feel your heart beating rapidly only minutes afterward when you climb a flight of stairs at work. So sometimes diagnosing the exact cause of your symptoms is like “detective work,” and can involve a number of visits to your doctor, or even wearing an unobtrusive measuring device during the day, so that your blood pressure or your heart’s electrical activity can be measured “over time” to see when the symptoms appear, and what circumstances cause them.

So with this in mind, our recommendation as some of the top cardiologists in Palm Beach is that you should understand that we’re being careful, not wasting your time and money. We want to be sure of what may be causing your symptoms, so that we can recommend the right treatments to manage them or make them go away. This can take some time, and a number of visits.

But it all starts with your first visit, and your first checkup

If you haven’t had a thorough heart checkup in some time, we recommend that you give South Palm Cardiovascular Associates a call at 561-515-0080 to arrange for one. Chances are we’ll find nothing out of the ordinary, and we’ll tell you that, and you won’t need to come back to see us for another year or so. But if we DO find some things that worry us about your condition, don’t be resentful. We really won’t ask you to come back for more tests unless there is a strong reason for asking you to do so.

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Hospital Affiliations

Our physicians have privileges and daily round at Bethesda East Hospital, Bethesda West Hospital and Delray Medical Center.