Tests and diagnosis

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Your doctor will conduct a physical examination, take a personal and family medical history, and ask when your symptoms occur — for example, whether exercise brings on your symptoms. If your doctor thinks you have cardiomyopathy, you may need to undergo several tests to confirm the diagnosis. These tests may include:

  • Chest X-ray. An image of your heart will show whether it's enlarged.
  • Echocardiogram. An echocardiogram uses sound waves to produce images of the heart. Your doctor can use these images to examine the size and function of your heart and its motions as it beats. This test checks your heart valves and helps your doctor determine the cause of your symptoms.
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG). In this noninvasive test, electrode patches are attached to your skin to measure electrical impulses from your heart. An ECG can show disturbances in the electrical activity of your heart, which can detect abnormal heart rhythms and areas of injury.
  • Treadmill stress test. Your heart rhythm, blood pressure and breathing are monitored while you walk on a treadmill. Your doctor may recommend a treadmill stress test to evaluate symptoms, determine your exercise capacity and determine if exercise provokes abnormal heart rhythms.
  • Cardiac catheterization. In this procedure, a thin tube (catheter) is inserted in your groin and threaded through your blood vessels to your heart. Doctors may extract a small sample (biopsy) of your heart for analysis in the laboratory. Pressure within the chambers of your heart can be measured to see how forcefully blood pumps through your heart.

    Doctors may inject a dye into your blood vessels to help your blood vessels show up on X-rays (coronary angiogram). This test may be used to ensure that you do not have any blockages in your blood vessels.

  • Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Cardiac MRI is an imaging technique that uses magnetic fields and radio waves to create images of your heart. Cardiac MRI may be used in addition to echocardiography, particularly if the images from your echocardiogram aren't helpful in making a diagnosis.
  • Cardiac computerized tomography (CT) scan. In a cardiac CT scan, you lie on a table inside a doughnut-shaped machine. An X-ray tube inside the machine rotates around your body and collects images of your heart and chest. This test may occasionally be conducted to assess the heart size and function and assess heart valves.
  • Blood tests. Several blood tests may be done, including those to check your kidney, thyroid and liver function, and to measure your iron levels.

    One blood test can measure B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP), a protein produced in your heart. Your blood level of BNP rises when your heart is subjected to the stress of heart failure, a common complication of cardiomyopathy.

  • Genetic testing or screening. Cardiomyopathy can be hereditary. Discuss with your doctor whether genetic testing may be appropriate for you and your family. Your doctor may recommend family screening or genetic testing for your first-degree relatives (parents, siblings and children).
March 17, 2015

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