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Heart Health Center

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How Atrial Fibrillation Is Diagnosed

Stress Test

It's just what it sounds like: A test that puts extra stress on your heart to see how it responds to working hard and beating fast. You'll be hooked up to an EKG during the test, and the technician will watch your heart rate and blood pressure, too.

Exercise is an easy way to get your heart pumping. You might ride a stationary bicycle or walk or run on a treadmill. That's why this is sometimes called a treadmill test.

If your body can't handle intense activity, you can take a special medicine that makes your heart work harder instead.


This test uses sound waves and a computer to create a moving picture of your heart. An "echo" gives your doctor information about:

  • The size and shape of your heart
  • How well the heart chambers and valves are working
  • Where the heart muscle isn't contracting the right way
  • Areas of poor blood flow
  • Previous injuries poor blood flow has caused

The same device makes the sound waves and picks them up bouncing back. When your doctor puts it on your chest, this procedure is called a transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE). To get closer to your heart so it's easier to make clear pictures and see blood clots, he can feed the device through your mouth and down your throat while you're sedated and won't feel it. That's called a transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE).

Chest X-ray

It can't show AFib, but it can show complications including fluid buildup and an enlarged heart.

Blood Tests

These can point your doctor to what might be causing your AFib. Blood tests may check for infection, thyroid, and kidney problems, signs of a heart attack, and more.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on August 27, 2015
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