Cardiac Function Tests

The heart is one of the organs directly affected by scleroderma.

It's important to check heart function annually, as cardiac changes can develop without noticeable symptoms. Irregular heartbeats frequently present with no symptoms and can go undetected for years.

What is it?

Alongside common tests such as blood pressure monitoring and cholesterol blood tests, an electrocardiogram (ECG) can detect slower contractions of the heart, which may indicate scarred heart muscle.

Echocardiograms provide information about the structure and working of your heart and enable assessment of wall thickness. It can also assess the likelihood of PAH. Other tests of heart structure and function may be performed, such as a cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan.

How is it performed?

In an ECG, sensors are attached to your chest to detect the electrical signals generated by your heart. In echocardiograms, gel is applied to your chest and the cardiologist scans over your chest using a small probe.

A cardiac MRI uses magnets to produce detailed images of the heart that can assess muscle damage, scarring and cardiac function.

What do the results mean?

If signs of heart disease are found, your doctor may wish to start treatment such as beta‑blockers, blood thinners or statins.

If you notice any symptoms before your scheduled test – such as chest discomfort, palpitations or swollen ankles – make sure you tell your doctor, who can plan a test early.

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