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Exams and Tests

Heart failure is usually detected after a review of your full medical history, a physical exam and results from blood and/or cardiac imaging tests. Many patients first learn they have heart failure after going to the emergency room or hospital with symptoms, often shortness of breath with or without swelling.

Blood and/or imaging tests are used to assess any damage to your heart and to check how well it pumps blood. Your doctor may decide to order:

  • B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP): this is a simple blood test that's a good initial test if someone has symptoms such as shortness of breath, but it is unclear if the heart is the reason
  • Standard blood tests such as kidney function, electrolytes, and thyroid function
  • ECG, chest X-ray
  • Heart imaging: usually an echocardiogram (ultrasound), or possibly a cardiac MRI scan
  • Cardiac catheterization, if needed

Many of these tests may be repeated over time to determine if your heart function is the same, better or worse with treatment.

  • Last Edited 03/17/2022