Medical Tests & Procedures Archive


Artificial intelligence: Advancing into cardiology

Machine learning, a key aspect of artificial intelligence (AI), may improve the diagnosis of heart disease by analyzing large amounts of data from chest CT scans, echocardiograms, and electrocardiograms. By recognizing patterns, the machine "learns" and becomes more accurate over time. Current projects include diagnosing coronary artery disease with stress echocardiography and detecting multiple heart rhythm disorders from electrocardiograms in different formats and layouts.

A safer way to diagnose coronary artery disease?

Cardiac CT angiography (CCTA), a noninvasive test to check for clogged heart arteries, is now considered a first-line test for people with suspected heart disease. This test uses a CT scanner, which takes multiple, rapid x-rays that are merged together to create a detailed, three-dimensional view of the heart's arteries. CCTA appears to be just as effective as traditional angiography for detecting and preventing heart attacks, strokes, and death from heart disease, but with fewer procedure-related risks.

Do blood tests really help diagnose Alzheimer's disease?

In May 2022, the FDA approved a blood test to help diagnose Alzheimer's disease. The test looks for amyloid-beta protein, a marker of Alzheimer's. The blood test is quite accurate, compared with positron emission tomography (PET) brain scans, which are more expensive and complicated. More blood tests, including some that look for tau protein (another marker of Alzheimer's), also are under development. Other tests used to diagnose Alzheimer's include computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and a spinal tap.

What happens during electrical cardioversion?

Electrical cardioversion is a procedure that uses low-energy shocks to convert a rapid or irregular heartbeat back to a normal rhythm. People remain asleep during the brief procedure, so they don't feel anything.

How do I calm my shaking hands?

Long-established treatments for essential tremor, such as medication and deep brain stimulation surgery, have been joined by a leading-edge technique called focused ultrasound. This incision-free procedure aims sound waves at a spot deep in the brain responsible for tremors. While scientists study ultrasound's long-term effects, the procedure is currently used to treat shakiness on only one side of the body. Other common causes of tremor include Parkinson's disease, caffeine, alcohol withdrawal, anxiety, and fatigue.

Smartwatch monitoring after a heart valve procedure

A 2022 study suggests that using a smartwatch capable of estimating blood oxygen levels and recording an electrocardiogram could be an effective way to remotely monitor people at home following a minimally invasive heart valve replacement.

Do you really need that heart test or procedure?

Low-value care (tests or procedures that offer no clear benefit) is a particular problem for people with cardiovascular disease. Low-value care may happen because certain tests are widely available and may provide financial benefit to the health care center. But for patients, these tests may be a waste of time and money and lead to anxiety and risky complications. Up to half of all exercise stress tests and 15% of stent placements done in the United States may be inappropriate.

Warning signs of early heart failure

The signs of early heart failure, which include fatigue, shortness of breath, and swollen ankles, are often dismissed. Recent developments in both the detection and treatment of heart failure may help ease the burden of this disease. The American Diabetes Association recommends that people with type 2 diabetes receive yearly blood tests for a common biomarker of heart failure. And the FDA recently expanded use of a diabetes drug proven to keep people with heart failure (even those without diabetes) out of the hospital and alive longer.

Mammograms may help reveal cardiovascular risk

Postmenopausal women whose screening mammograms show signs of calcification in their breast arteries may have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

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