Saint Agnes Hospital

Strong Foundation, Brilliant Future.

Diagnostic Methods

Rapid and Accurate Diagnosis from the Finest Cardiovascular Team in Maryland

Our team at the Cardiovascular Institute works together to diagnose cardiovascular disease more rapidly and accurately.

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How is Cardiovascular Disease Diagnosed?

Arteriosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, is one of the leading causes of cardiovascular disease. It occurs when cholesterol builds up in your arteries, inhibiting blood flow.

This can affect both the heart and the vascular system. When this happens in an artery of the heart, it can lead to a heart attack. When it occurs in the arteries or veins outside of the heart, it is called peripheral arterial disease (PAD). At Saint Agnes, we have a full range of methods to diagnose these diseases.

For diagnosis, a catheter is inserted into the arteries of the arm or leg and guided into blood vessels or chambers in the heart. From there, the catheter can be used to take measurements and blood samples, or to insert a dye making the arteries and blood vessels appear in an imaging scan. This method is used to diagnose plaque build up in both the heart and the vascular system.

Vascular Screening: 3 tests that could save your life

The Vascular Screening Program at Saint Agnes utilizes three specific tests to develop a comprehensive picture of your vascular health. These quickly and painless tests can detect PAD before it causes a heart attack, aneurysm or stroke.

Carotid Artery Ultrasound

The carotid arteries are arteries that are located in your neck and carry blood to your brain. This test uses ultrasound technology to view these arteries and determine if there is any build up of plaque that could lead to a stroke.

Abdominal Aortic Ultrasound

This test uses ultrasound equipment to view your abdominal aorta, which is the portion of your aorta (the largest artery in the body) that is located in your abdomen. This test determines your risk for an abdominal aortic aneurysm.

Ankle Brachial Index (ABI)

This test utilizes a blood pressure cuff and ultrasound technology to determine the level of blood circulation in your legs.

Cardiac Screening for optimum heart health

These non-invasive studies help identify heart problems and irregularities so that appropriate treatment can be taken.

64-slice CT Scan

Our 64-slice CT scanner provides precise images of the heart quickly by creating approximately 3,000 image slices in 10 seconds. These detailed images allow your physicians to see structures that may not be visible otherwise.

Electrocardiography (EKG)

This test uses electrical currents that originate in the heart to provide a picture of the heart’s overall health.

Exercise Stress Tests

During this test you will be asked to walk and perhaps run on a treadmill with an Electrocardiography (EKG) system hooked to you to monitor your heart. This test can be stopped at any time. After the test your blood pressure will be taken. This information is then utilized to determine the overall health of your heart.


While most people are familiar with heart attacks, a more prominent and very different heart condition that affects almost 5 million Americans is less well known — heart failure. However, there is good news: Heart failure can be easily detected, and treatment methods have proven very effective.
Heart failure is caused by either a weak heart muscle or a heart muscle with normal strength that doesn’t relax well and becomes stiff. The common symptoms in heart failure include:

  • Unexpected shortness of breath and inexplicable fatigue

  • Heart palpitations

  • Fainting

  • Increased thirst

  • Chest pains

  • Swelling of the ankles

  • Unexplained weight gain 

The good news is that a general physical exam typically will detect heart failure, further emphasizing the need for routine physicals. Abnormal heart sounds and evidence of fluid in the lungs usually will be detected, and vital sign readings and chest X-rays also can detect the condition.

Find a Cardiologist or Vascular Surgeon

For more information on the Cardiovascular Institute at Saint Agnes Hospital in Baltimore, please contact us at 866-690-9355 (WELL) or use our Find a Physician directory.


Know the Warning Signs*

If you see or have any of the following symptoms, call 911 immediately.

Heart Attack
  • Chest discomfort
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause

*Provided by the American Heart Association.

Understanding Our Approach

Watch a video on the Cardiovascular Institute


Over 30 years ago, Saint Agnes Hospital set the international gold standard with the first chest pain emergency room in the world. Our pioneering in this field has led to 725 similar centers worldwide that now use our hospital’s approach as their model.


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