Cardiac Imaging and Diagnostic Tests


We offer state-of-the-art, noninvasive and minimally invasive cardiac diagnostic tests and imaging for kids of all ages, including babies still in the womb.

The Nemours Cardiac Center in Florida includes teams of pediatric cardiologists, skilled nurses and trained technicians who perform the safest tests possible to give us the best information for an accurate diagnosis. And because Nemours cares exclusively for kids, we know how to reduce anxiety and get results fast, minimizing radiation exposure and the need for sedation and anesthesia.

Cardiac Imaging

Echocardiography (Echo)

Echocardiography (or “echo”) is the most common pediatric heart imaging method used to measure the heart’s activity. An echo is a completely safe and painless test that uses ultrasound (sound waves) to build a picture of the heart to view valves and other structures (called an “echocardiogram”). Our Nemours Cardiac Center locations in Orlando and Pensacola are accredited echo labs. Types of echocardiography include:

  • transthoracic echocardiography (most common, performed using a small ultrasound probe, like a wand, moved on the chest and upper abdomen)
  • transesophageal echocardiography, or TEE (while under sedation or anesthesia, a flexible ultrasound probe is inserted in the mouth through the esophagus)
  • fetal echocardiography (performed as early as the 16th week of pregnancy, shows the structure, function and rhythm of a baby’s heart in the womb)
  • intravascular echocardiography, or ICE (a tiny ultrasound probe inserted through a catheter, or tube, and fed through the blood vessel)
Cardiovascular Computed Tomography (CT or CAT Scan)

WATCH VIDEO: Getting a CAT Scan »

Also called a CT or CAT scan, this test detects problems with the heart’s electrical activity.

During the test, a small amount of contrast agent (or dye) is injected into the bloodstream to give the doctor an accurate image, in a matter of seconds, of the important blood vessels attached to the heart and abnormalities (in the heart and other structures in the chest such as the lungs and airways).

Cardiac Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Watch Video: Getting an MRI »

Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging, or “MRI,” is a very safe test that uses a strong magnetic field to produce pictures of the structure and function of the heart, as well as the lungs, airways and the esophagus.

During the test, we use distraction techniques to keep even the youngest children still, but — only as a last resort — sedation or anesthesia may be required and provided by a skilled nurse or cardiac anesthesiologist.

Advanced Cardiac Diagnostic Tests for Children

Ambulatory Blood Pressure Monitor

A monitor that measures a child’s blood pressure during normal activities (in school, on the field, playing with friends, etc.) over 24 hours at preset intervals throughout the day and while sleeping.

The device consists of a small digital blood pressure machine that’s attached to a belt and connected to a cuff on the upper arm.

Electrocardiogram (EKG)

An electrocardiogram (EKG) is a completely painless test that measures the heart’s rate and rhythm using a series of 12 electrodes (small sticky tabs) attached to the skin. If an abnormal heart rhythm (called dysrhythmia or arrhythmia) is suspected, your child’s cardiologist may order another type of EKG for further assessment, such as a signal-average EKG (for a longer time), a Holter monitor (portable device) or loop recorder (inserted under the skin).

Cardiopulmonary Exercise Assessment

A cardiopulmonary exercise assessment (also called an “exercise test” or a “stress test”) uses an EKG to record heart rate and rhythm while exercising on a stationary bike or treadmill. This test looks for abnormalities not obvious during rest, and helps identify the safest level of physical activity for a child with a heart condition or after heart surgery.

In certain conditions, a cardiologist may order a myocardial perfusion imaging scan (also called “MPI scan” or “Cardiolite testing”) during the exercise test, which is performed using a small amount of safe, short-lived, radioactive material to highlight blood vessels that may cause reduce blood flow to the heart during stress and rest.

Lung Perfusion Scan

Lung perfusion scans are used in certain patients to measure air blood flow from the heart to the lungs. The test involves a safe, short-lived, radioactive material and a special computer used to calculating the amount of blood that travels to the right and left lung.

Tilt-Table Testing

This test is most often used to diagnose a cause for fainting. It involves monitoring blood pressure and the heart’s electrical activity with an EKG while a child is lying securely on a table that moves from horizontal to vertical.

Cardiac Imaging and Diagnostic Team Members

Experienced staff works hard to keep even the youngest babies and children occupied and comfortable so we can take the images quickly and get results the first time, without retesting and often without sedation or anesthesia.

It’s good to know we have we also have cardiac anesthesiologists and nurses who understand your child’s heart problem to provide safe and effective anesthesia or sedation for these tests only when necessary.

What to Expect With Cardiac Imaging and Diagnostic Tests

Cardiac imaging techniques are frequently used to learn more about your child’s heart condition. Nemours pediatric cardiac imaging specialists have specialized experience in keeping children comfortable and safe while obtaining high-quality images. Noninvasive imaging techniques are those that don’t require the insertion of needles, tubes or other devices into the body.

For More Information

Check out these detailed articles about select diagnostic tests created by Nemours’ experts at

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