Heart Tests

Before treatment for your heart problem begins, you may need some tests to give us more information about your heart condition. At the Heart Centre we use state-of-the-art equipment to get this information.

d)Going home after an EP StudyMost tests require a referral from your family doctor or often another specialist. More information about heart tests can be found at the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

Electrocardiogram (“ECG”)

What happens with this test?

Sticky patches (electrodes) leading to a special machine are attached to the legs, arms, and chest to record the electrical signals that create heart rhythms. An ECG gives doctors a lot of information about many different aspects of your heart.

Several of these sticky patches (electrodes) will be attached. Before attaching the patches, we will clean your skin, if necessary, shave or clip the hair so they stick well.

How do I prepare and what should I bring for the test?

  • Have a bath or shower the morning of the test
  • Do not put any lotion or powder on your skin
  • Wear a loose-fitting blouse or shirt that buttons down the front
  • Women should wear a comfortable bra; no long-line or full slips
  • Please bring photo identification and your BC Services Card (or BC Care Card)

How long does the test take?

The test takes 10 or 15 minutes, but please allow one hour in total, for registration and getting changed.

What happens after the test?

A cardiologist will review the recordings and send a report to your doctor.

Where do I go for the ECG?

Cardiology Lab

2nd Floor, Providence Wing, St. Paul’s Hospital

Contact Information

Telephone:   604-806-8032

Stress Test (Exercise Treadmill Test or ETT)

What happens with the test?

The test is used to check for blockages or narrowing in the coronary arteries. 

Sticky patches (electrodes) leading to a special machine are attached to the legs, arms, and chest to record the electrical signals that create heart rhythms. We will take this recording while you exercise on a treadmill. A cardiology technologist will be with you throughout the test.

  • We will ask you to undress from the waist up and wear a hospital gown 
  • We will clean your skin, and if necessary, shave or clip the hair so the patches stick well
  • We attach a blood pressure cuff and a probe (a soft clip) on your finger, to monitor your vital signs while you exercise
  • Before you start the test, we will show you how to get on and walk on the treadmill
  • The treadmill starts slowly at first and then gradually gets faster and steeper every 3 minutes
  • We will take your blood pressure often while you exercise
  • As you continue to exercise, the test will become harder and your pulse and blood pressure will rise. This is normal. Specially trained staff will be closely monitoring you**It’s very important for you to tell the technologist right away if you have any discomfort or pain
  • We want you to exercise for as long as you can, because this increases the accuracy of the test
  • When you feel that you can’t continue any longer (because you’re tired or short of breath etc.) you should tell the technologist and they will slow the treadmill down to a stop
  • After you get off the treadmill, we will take a final blood pressure within a minute after stopping the test
  • After that, you’ll have a few minutes to sit and relax

How should I prepare for the test and what should I bring?

  • Have only a light snack in the 2-3 hours before the test (e.g. toast, cookies, bagel, sandwich or some fruit)
  • Bring comfortable shoes and shorts or pants that are easy for walking
  • Arrive 10 minutes before your appointment time to check in
  • Bring a list of ALL medications you are taking, photo identification and your BC Services Card (or BC Care Card)

How long does the Stress Test take?

The test itself takes about one hour, but please allow at least two hours for checking in, setting up equipment and changing.

What happens after the test is done?

The test will be reviewed by a cardiologist (heart doctor) and we will send a report to the doctor that sent you for the test, usually within 3-4 days.

Where do I go for the test?

Cardiology Department

2nd Floor, Providence Wing, St. Paul’s Hospital

Contact Information

Telephone:    604-806-8032

Holter Monitor

This test checks the heart rate (number of beats per minute), regularity of the beats (the heart rhythm), whether there is reduced blood supply to the heart while you carry out your normal activities and also the effects of drugs or devices such as pacemakers.

What happens with this test?

Several sticky patches (electrodes) will be attached across your chest. Before attaching the patches, we will clean your skin, if necessary, shave or clip the hair so they stick well. The electrodes will be connected to the Holter monitor which is about the size of a deck of cards and is very light. We will put it in a small pouch that you’ll wear with a belt around your waist or a strap over your shoulder. You can wear normal loose clothes over the monitor so no one will know that you are wearing it. You will wear the monitor for 24 hours.

For those 24 hours, you should do your normal activities and record in a diary any symptoms (such as shortness of breath, irregular heart beats, any discomfort in your chest, throat, jaw or arms – or anything else unusual that you feel) and what you were doing (e.g. running, walking, eating, having a bowel movement). While the monitor is on it’s important NOT to adjust the recorder, sensors, cables or tapes. You also MUST NOT shower, bathe or swim.

How do I prepare and what should I bring for the test?

  • Have a bath or shower the morning of the test
  • Do not put any lotion or powder on your skin
  • Wear a loose-fitting blouse or shirt that buttons down the front
  • Women should wear a comfortable bra; no long-line or full slips
  • Please bring photo identification and your BC Services Card (or BC Care Card)

How long will the test take?

Allow one hour for the monitor to be put on. You will need to come back to the lab 24 hours later to have the monitor removed. Allow ½ hour for the monitor to be removed. Plan on 2 hours of parking, in case of delay.

What happens after the test?

The cardiologist will review the tracings and send a report to your doctor. Some people may develop a slight rash where the electrodes were placed.

Where do I go for the Holter Monitor?

Cardiology Lab

2nd Floor, Providence Wing, St. Paul’s Hospital

Contact Information

Telephone:    604-806-2887

Cardiac Event Monitor

What happens with this test?

The test checks the heart rate (number of beats per minute) and the regularity of the beats (the heart rhythm) over days or weeks. You will carry an event-recording box (about the size of a deck of cards) so you can make 1- to 2-minute recordings of your heart rhythm (an electrocardiogram or ECG) when you have symptoms. The recorder (also called “King of Hearts”) is helpful if you have brief or only occasional symptoms. We will lend you the monitor for several days and up to two weeks.

When you come to your appointment we will clean small areas of the skin on your chest and shave it, if necessary. We will lightly scrape the skin to get the best possible signal for the ECG. We will put 2 or 3 sticky patches (electrodes) on your chest and attach them to the monitor. We will show you how to replace these electrodes if needed. We will show you how to push the “record button” on the recorder when you are feeling symptoms and how to transmit these recordings over the telephone to the Cardiology Lab. Once transmitted, the recordings will be printed and checked by the cardiologist (heart doctor) for anything abnormal.

While you are wearing the monitor, you should do your normal activities. We will give you extra electrodes, batteries and tape so that you will be able to change and move the electrodes to prevent skin rash. You will be able to remove the monitor each day to bath or shower. But, while the monitor is on, you MUST keep it away from moisture.

How do I prepare and what should I bring for the test?

  • Have a bath or shower the morning of the test
  • Do not put any lotion or powder on your skin
  • Wear a loose-fitting blouse or shirt that buttons down the front
  • Women should wear a comfortable bra; no long-line or full slips
  • Please bring photo identification and your BC Services Card (or BC Care Card)

How long will the test take?

Allow one hour for the monitor to be put on. We will then ask you to return the monitor at a pre-arranged date or after enough information has been gathered. Allow one hour for the monitor to be removed. Get 2 hours of parking, in case of delay.

What happens after the test?

Some people may develop a slight rash where the electrodes were placed. You can resume your regular activities. A cardiologist will review the recordings and send a report to your doctor.

Where do I go for the test?

Cardiology Lab

2nd Floor, Providence Wing, St. Paul’s Hospital

Contact Information

Telephone:    604-806-8032

For more information, please visit the Heart Rhythm Society website.

Angiogram
An angiogram is a test to see if you have blockages in the blood vessels that supply the heart. Please visit the Angiogram & Angioplasty page for more information.
MIBI Myocardial Perfusion Scan (MPI)

This test is used to check for coronary artery disease. The coronary arteries are the blood vessels that supply blood to your heart muscle.

Patient Guide: Exercise Myocardial Perfusion Scan MIBI

Transthoracic Echocardiogram (“Echo”)

An echocardiogram is an ultrasound of your heart that gives detailed information about how your heart is working.

What happens with this test?

We will ask you to take off your clothes from the waist up and put on a hospital gown and lie on a stretcher. A specially trained technologist will use a plastic probe or wand and run it over your chest to get different views of your heart. This is not painful at all. We will help you get into the best position for the test.

How do I prepare and what should I bring for the test?

There is no special preparation. Wear clothes that are easy to take off from the waist up. Please bring photo identification and your BC Services Card (or BC Care Card)

How long does the test take?

The test itself takes about 30 minutes, but please allow for 1½ hours all together.

What happens after the test?

Your doctor will get a report of the results.

Where do I go for the Transthoracic Echo?

2nd Floor, Providence Wing, St. Paul’s Hospital

Contact Information

Telephone: 604-806-8018

Trans-Esophageal Echocardiogram (TEE)

What happens with this test?

This is an ultrasound of your heart that gives detailed information about how your heart is working. We do this test by passing a small tube-like probe through your mouth and down your esophagus (food passage that goes to your stomach). This allows us to get up close to your heart and see how it is working. You will receive medicine to make you drowsy and relaxed for this test.

For more information on this test and how to prepare please see the document below:

Patient Guide: TEE

Where do I go for the Transesophageal Echo?

Cardiac Short Stay Unit

5th Floor, Providence Wing, St. Paul’s Hospital

Contact Information

Telephone:    604-806-8018

Dobutamine Stress Echo (DSE)

What happens with this test?

Stress echocardiography (“echo”) is a special examination that uses ultrasound waves to get pictures of the heart and evaluate how well it’s working, both at rest and during the added “stress” of higher pulse and blood pressure.

To create the “stress” of higher blood pressure and pulse, we will give you a medicine called dobutamine. We will give it through an intravenous line. The medicine will slowly increase your pulse and blood pressure. The cardiologist and specially trained health professionals will be constantly watching you and checking your vital signs. We will take an ECG (heart tracing) and perform an echocardiogram during the test. You will likely feel a slight headache, nausea (feeling sick to your stomach), anxious or shaky.

How do I prepare and what should I bring for the test?

  • Do not eat any food for 2 hours before the test
  • Take your regular medicines at their usual time with a small amount of water. If your test is scheduled later in the morning (after 11 AM), a light breakfast is allowed. If your test is scheduled for the early afternoon, have a regular breakfast and a very light lunch
  • If you have diabetes, follow your regular eating and medicine schedule
  • If you have specific questions about your medicines for that day, please ask your family doctor or the cardiologist (heart doctor) who referred you
  • Dress so that you can take off all your clothes from the waist up. We will give you a gown. We will clean and lightly rub small patches of skin on your chest, arms and legs to make sure the electrocardiogram (ECG – a heart tracing) patches stay on during the test
  • We suggest you bring someone with you to drive you home, because the medicine may leave you feeling weak
  • Please bring photo identification and your BC Services Card (or BC Care Card)

How long does the test take?

The test itself usually takes about 1 hour to complete, but please plan on 2 hours for the whole thing, including registering, changing clothes and setting up the equipment.

What happens after the test?

You will be able to return to your normal activities after the test. We suggest you bring someone with you to drive you home, because the medicine may leave you feeling weak. Your family doctor and cardiologist will get a report of the results within a week.

Where do I go for the Dobutamine Stress Echo?

Cardiology Laboratory

2nd Floor, Providence Wing, St. Paul’s Hospital (follow the red line)

Contact Information

Telephone:    604-806-8032

Electrophysiology Lab

Individuals who suffer from irregular heart rhythms or arrhythmia can greatly benefit from an electrophysiology study. This study is performed in the electrophysiology lab. An electrophysiology study involves the insertion of catheters into different regions of the heart in order to study and map the electrical circuits of the heart. 

What to bring

  • Specific information will be provided to you regarding your medications and pre-operative instructions
  • Please also bring photo identification and your BC Services Card (or BC Care Card)

Disease Information

In someone who has a ‘normal’ heart rhythm, electricity flows through the heart in a regular, measured pattern. A normal electrical system generates coordinated heart muscle contractions. When there is a problem with the electrical pathway, an arrhythmia or heart rhythm disturbance occurs. An electrophysiology study helps to accurately diagnose the precise cause of an arrhythmia and guides physicians to select the best possible treatment.

Patient Information

Patient Guide: EP Study

Contact Information

5CD Providence Building, St. Paul’s Hospital
Device and Electrophysiology Triage Coordinator
Heart Centre, St. Paul's Hospital
Phone: 604 806 8113
Fax: 604 806 8794