Pediatric Heart Diagnostic Tests & Visits

Whether you’re visiting for the first time at the Children’s Heart Center at The Children’s Hospital in Oklahoma City or you’re returning to see the friendly, familiar health professionals who care for you or your child, here’s how to prepare for your upcoming visit, test or procedure.

What to Bring

You can help your clinic visit go as smoothly as possible when you bring the following information with you to each appointment:

  • Referring physician or practice name, address and contact information
  • Copies of medical records from referring physicians except doctors from other OU Health Physicians practices or doctors affiliated with The Children’s Hospital
  • Your/your child’s personal health history, including developmental milestones, chronic illnesses, surgeries, hospitalizations and medications
  • Health history of family members, including medical or developmental concerns, pregnancy losses, congenital abnormalities, age/cause of death and other relevant information
  • Current health insurance card(s); check with your insurance carrier for details about your coverage or find out more about OU Health insurance and billing
  • Completed copy of the New Patient Questionnaire[pdf] or the Established Patient Questionnaire[pdf], as appropriate

On Your Appointment Day

Take all regularly prescribed medications unless a member of the Children’s Heart Center team instructs you otherwise.

Bring a family member, caretaker or friend with you, if you like. No more than two people at a time can accompany the person being tested into any given clinic service area. Please be familiar with changes to visitor policies due to COVID-19.

Arrive 15-20 minutes before your scheduled appointment time to allow for parking, finding your way to the check-in location and completing the check-in process at the Children’s Heart Center Clinic, Level 2, Station F adjacent to The Children’s Hospital..

Heart Center map and directions [pdf]

What To Expect During a Diagnostic Visit

Plan for your clinic visit at the Children’s Heart Center to take longer than your regular doctor’s appointment or your visits to other medical specialists. The length of your appointment depends on the number and types of services planned for you or that your doctor adds while you’re here. On average, you can expect to spend two to three hours with us.

You also can expect to take part in many clinical activities to help us better understand your specific situation. Your doctor or specialist will want to know about your current health condition, symptoms and medical history – and your doctor or specialist may ask to meet with just you and/or you and your legal guardian to gather private medical history information. You’ll also participate in a comprehensive body systems review and a thorough physical examination by a specialty provider.

Depending on what your provider finds, you or your child may get a referral for more diagnostic testing, including one or more of the procedures listed below, to help your doctor develop a definitive diagnosis.

Once you finish the required tests, your specialty provider meets with you to review results and finalize the personal treatment plan that fits your or your child’s particular situation.

After You Leave

If you or your child need any additional testing or treatment, you’ll get more information from your Children’s Heart Center team. They work with you to coordinate upcoming appointments and share the status of results that may take four to six weeks to return.

Shortly after your clinic visit, you and your child’s primary doctor can expect a letter summarizing your in-person conversation and arranging for follow-up visits to discuss your child’s diagnosis or review recommendations for additional care and treatment.

Questions or concerns? Contact the Children’s Heart Center at (405) 271-5530.

Expert Pediatric Cardiovascular Diagnostic Tests

To help evaluate your child’s condition and develop an accurate diagnosis, your doctor or specialty provider may request one or more commonly ordered diagnostic tests or procedures, including:

  • Blood tests and related assessments – Gathers samples of blood, other fluids and body function data such as oxygen saturation to examine cells, minerals, protein, carbon dioxide, oxygen and other indicators of health or illness
  • Exercise testing – Checks electrical activity and general function of the heart in response to exercise or stress; also may include pulmonary function tests (spirometry) to assess lung capacity and oxygen levels that support heart function; may combine with echocardiogram for a “stress/echo” to assess blood flow through valves while the heart beats faster during exercise
  • Holter/event monitoring – Tracks heart rhythm for short periods (24-48 hours with a Holter monitor) or an extended time (up to a month with an event monitor); helps evaluate chest pain, other heart-related symptoms, irregular beats, abnormal rhythms from a resting EKG and more
  • Tilt table procedure – Helps diagnose the source of fainting (syncope), including vasovagal syndrome (sudden drop in blood pressure from nerve dysfunction), arrhythmia or dysrhythmia (heart rates too slow, fast or irregular) or valve disease

Imaging & Radiology Diagnostic Tests

Your child also may need common or specialized cardiovascular imaging studies or minimally invasive diagnostic radiology procedures such as:

  • Cardiac catheterization – Helps diagnose and treat congenital heart disease without surgery; performed in the hospital by specially trained pediatric congenital interventional cardiologists; explore cardiac catheterization at OU Health
  • Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – Combines a large magnet, radio waves and a computer to create high-resolution still and moving images of major blood vessels and the beating heart; assesses size, structure, function, blood flow and injury to heart muscle; used instead of invasive diagnostic procedures for children and adults with congenital heart disorders or conditions such as tetralogy of Fallot, coarctation of the aorta, hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), transposition of great arteries, cardiomyopathy, aortic disease, myocarditis and Fontan single ventricle surgery follow-up; learn more about MRI at OU Health
  • Chest X-ray – Uses low levels of external radiation to produce images of heart, lungs and/or lung vessels; helps diagnose heart enlargement (congenital defects, cardiomyopathy), pericardial effusion, pleural effusion, pulmonary edema (fluid in lungs), pneumonia and other diseases; compares heart and lung status; helps check position of implanted pacemaker wires or central venous catheters; explore X-ray services at OU Health
  • CT scan – Uses specialized X-ray beam that circles the body to capture many detailed views of the same organ/structure; multiple views interpreted by a computer (computed tomography or CT) appear in two dimensions on a monitor; may or may not use contrast dye to highlight organ function during procedure; learn more about CT scans at OU Health
  • Echocardiogram – Uses sound waves through a small wand placed on the chest to view moving images of beating heart, walls and valves; also known as echo, cardiac ultrasound or ultrasonography, cardiac Doppler, transthoracic echocardiography (TTE); helps diagnose aneurysm, cardiomyopathy, congenital abnormalities, pericarditis (inflammation), valve disease; explore echocardiography at OU Health
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) – Measures electrical activity of the heart through leads attached to the chest; helps diagnose enlarged heart, ischemia (decreased blood flow), conduction disorders affecting rhythm (fast, slow, irregular), electrolyte disturbances, pericarditis, valve disease, chest trauma and more; also used to check implanted pacemaker, effectiveness of heart medications, heart condition/status before surgery or during a physical examination or following a heart-related procedure; learn more about electrocardiogram at OU Health
  • Fetal echocardiogram – Uses special ultrasound test during pregnancy to assess unborn baby’s heart structure and function; helps determine proper development of all four chambers; allows faster medical/surgical intervention at birth to correct heart abnormalities, if necessary; explore neonatal/perinatal services at OU Health
  • Transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) – Uses small endoscope-like cardiac ultrasound wand carefully guided into the esophagus to evaluate heart structures and blood vessels in the chest; helps assess blood flow in congenital abnormalities, effects of surgical intervention during heart procedures, pulmonary disease if TTE results aren’t clear, tears in lining of aorta; provides better visualization of implanted prosthetic heart valves, mitral valve disease, blood clots or masses inside the heart

Explore more information about diagnosing and evaluating heart disease in children and the top-quality pediatric heart and vascular treatments and programs at OU Health.

Sedation or Anesthesia for Certain Imaging Procedures

Sometimes, one or more tests – CT scans, MRI scans, echocardiogram – can create feelings of anxiety that may or may not disappear as you or your child learn more about what’s involved. If needed, sedatives can help you or your child relax for the test.

Certain diagnostic procedures, such as cardiac catheterization or transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE), are considered minimally invasive and performing them safely and effectively requires sedation or general anesthesia.

At OU Health, you and your child benefit from the expertise of doctors and nurses with advanced training in pediatric anesthesiology and sedation who provide the proper amount of medication, as well as the close monitoring and care needed for optimal outcomes.

What to Expect with Sedation or Anesthesia

One of The Children’s Hospital’s board-certified pediatric anesthesiologists performs and monitors any needed sedation. They may administer general anesthesia through a breathing mask or IV (intravenously) that allows the person being tested, including adults with special needs or others who can’t lie still, to remain completely asleep during the scan or procedure. The anesthesiologist uses a breathing tube to maintain the person’s breathing throughout the test.

When the exam ends, the anesthesiologist removes the breathing tube. Then, the person tested moves to a special-care area for recovery. With sedation or anesthesia, you or your child may feel groggy, tired or sleepy for several hours after the exam, but these effects usually disappear within a day or so.

Your Child’s Pediatric Heart & Vascular Care Team

During the time you and your child spend at the Children’s Heart Center, you’ll work with a variety of talented, compassionate and highly trained experts – doctors, nurses and staff who provide specialized pediatric services to diagnose and treat your child’s specific condition.

Your child’s heart and vascular care team may include pediatric cardiologists, pediatric cardiothoracic surgeons, pediatric cardiac anesthesiologists, pediatric critical care specialists and pediatric cardiac nurses, as well as child life specialists, social workers, therapists and healthcare professionals from many disciplines.

You benefit from working with an experienced pediatric cardiovascular team that directly involves you and your family in treatment decisions, also pays close attention to your family’s nonmedical needs and:

  • Performs more than 450 complex cardiothoracic surgeries each year
  • Uses the latest advanced technologies, including minimally invasive procedures that help speed healing and recovery
  • Brings together specialists from all departments to coordinate and implement new and innovative treatments for children’s heart and vascular conditions
  • Cares for the tiniest hearts through our extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) program, a nationally designated ECMO Center of Excellence
  • Conducts groundbreaking research on hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS) with nationally renowned colleagues from across the United States and brings new methods for prevention, diagnosis and treatment to your care through participation in locally available clinical trials
  • Teaches the physicians of tomorrow for the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine, which also gives you access to benchmark practice standards, innovative care and treatment methods, advanced technology and world-class research
  • Puts smiles on the faces of children and families during more than 10,000 outpatient visits each year