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Do You Have Shortness of Breath? Here Are the Tests You Might Need

Do You Have Shortness of Breath? Here Are the Tests You Might Need

Shortness of breath can mean many things. If you run a sprint, you’re going to be short of breath at the end. If you’re having a heart attack, you’re likely to be short of breath. If you’re gasping for air without an obvious cause, it’s time to get some tests. 

The medical term for shortness of breath is dyspnea, and the expert providers at Heart & Vascular Institute know some of our patients might be surprised that dyspnea could indicate a problem. 

Since there are so many potential causes of shortness of breath, we’re likely to suggest diagnostic testing to rule out a cardiovascular problem like coronary artery diseasecongestive heart failure, or heart valve disorder. 

Stress test

Most people have seen a movie or TV show where someone is on a treadmill with wires attached, or they know someone who’s had a stress test. But not everyone understands what it does. A stress test shows how well your heart works when it’s pumping hard. 

Here’s how it works: You’re on a treadmill or stationary bicycle, and we attach leads or monitors around your body. As you move, the test measures how blood flows through your heart, your blood pressure, the rate and rhythm of your heartbeat, and the electrical signals in your heart. 

If you can’t exercise, we may give you medicine that speeds up your heart as if you were.

A stress test can help us determine if you have an issue like coronary artery disease, arrhythmia, heart failure, or heart valve problems. Sometimes, a stress test doesn’t reveal why you’re experiencing dyspnea; in that case, we may suggest additional diagnostic tests. 


An echocardiogram uses sound waves and is sometimes referred to as a heart ultrasound. The sound waves create an image that shows how blood moves through your heart. There are several types of echocardiograms — a stress test is a kind of echocardiogram.

The most common type of echocardiogram is the transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE). Your doctor might use contrast dye administered through an IV while you take the test. 


Bio-Z, or Bio-Impedance, allows us to see how hard your heart pumps based on how much blood moves through with each beat. It can also help your doctor see how much fluid is in your chest, which is important in diagnosing congestive heart failure. 

Microvolt T-wave alternans (MTWA)

This test measures the variation in your heartbeat. It can show that you’re having a heart attack or had a heart attack. It can help us know if you’re likely to have a dangerous arrhythmia in the future, so your provider can prescribe treatment to avoid that danger. 

Don’t ignore dyspnea

If you find yourself short of breath at odd times, don’t ignore it. It could indicate a serious problem. In many instances, early treatment means you can avoid the problem getting worse. 

Schedule your appointment at any of the three convenient locations of Heart & Vascular Institute, in Dearborn, Detroit, and Southfield, Michigan, to learn why you’re gasping for breath. 

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