Heart Failure Tests

Deer Valley Hospital
19829 N. 27th Ave.
Phoenix, Arizona 85027
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North Mountain Hospital
250 E. Dunlap Ave.
Phoenix, Arizona 85020
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» Request a referral to a John C. Lincoln heart failure treatment specialist.

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John C. Lincoln Hospitals are specialized in providing heart failure treatment. Our hospitals were first in Arizona to earn full accreditation as heart failure centers. Learn about our heart failure centers.

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When a patient demonstrates heart failure symptoms, John C. Lincoln's cardiac specialists perform a set of clinical assessments, lab studies and diagnostic tests in an effort to confirm, or rule out, a diagnosis of heart failure.

Blood Tests and Other Laboratory Tests

Blood tests are one important method for determining a patient's diagnosis. In particular, a BNP (brain natriuretic peptide) test calculates the presence of a hormone secreted by the heart when it is injured or overworked.

Other helpful lab tests include blood cell count, a complete metabolic panel, urinalysis, a thyroid function test, a fasting lipid peptide and a test for medication levels.


An echocardiogram (or "echo") is one of the most useful diagnostic tests for heart failure. While it can be used as initial test, it also can be performed periodically to evaluate heart function over time.

The key measurement used in an echocardiogram is ejection fraction (or "EF"). EF is calculated by comparing blood volume pumped from the heart's ventricles with the blood remaining in a ventricle at the end of a contraction. For example, a normal EF rate for the left ventricle is 55%. A reading of lower than 55% indicates heart weakness.

Additional Diagnostic Tests

Other diagnostic tests for heart failure used at John C. Lincoln Hospitals include:

Chest X-Ray: This will evaluate the size of the patient's heart, as well as basic heart structures, to determine the amount of fluid buildup in lung fields.

EKG (Electrocardiography): Electrodes placed on the chest measure electrical activity of the heart over time. Readings measure heart rhythm and possible weakness in the heart muscle.

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Request a referral to a John C. Lincoln heart failure specialist

Cardiac stress test: Also called a treadmill test, this test assesses heart function during physical exertion, and calcuates the volume of blood returning to the heart. The patient is asked to walk on a treadmill at different speeds and inclines. Heart rate, breathing and blood pressure are all measured. This test can be used in combination with an echocardiogram.

Cardiac catheterization: A thin plastic tube, called a catheter, is inserted into an artery or vein in the arm or leg, and then guided into the chambers of the heart or the coronary arteries. This diagnostic procedure can read blood pressure within the heart, blood oxygen levels and the heart muscle's overall blood-pumping capacity.

Cardiac computed tomography (CT) scan: During a cardiac CT scan, an X-Ray machine revolves around the patient's body, taking images of each part of your heart. A computer then assembles these images into a 3-D picture of the entire heart. Scans indicate the presence of calcified plaque in the coronary arteries, and illustrate the function of heart valves and pulmonary arteries.

MRI: In magnetic resonance imaging, high-powered magnets and radio waves produce images of the heart.

Radionuclide ventriculography measures the perfomance of the heart's ventricles. A special "gamma camera" traces the flow of an injected radioactive material, called technetium, as it moves through the heart.

Pulmonary function tests measure the lungs' ability to take in and release air, and analyze how well oxygen in the atmosphere is entering the body's circulatory system.

Once required data is obtained, the health care provider can determine the cause and classification of the patient's heart failure, and then form an appropriate heart failure treatment plan.

» Request a referral to a John C. Lincoln heart failure treatment specialist.