Testing and Diagnosing Heart Disease in Children

Diagnosing heart disease in infants and children can be a complex process.

It takes special training in translating test results and caring for young kids and their families.

The Heart Institute at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh takes a family-centered care approach.

This means our team will work with you and your child to:

  • Build a trusting rapport.
  • Make testing and hospital stays easier.
  • Get precise test results so doctors can make precise diagnoses.

Contact the Heart Institute at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh

To make an appointment, call 412-692-5540.

Common Tests for Heart Disease in Children

Among the most common tests for diagnosing heart disease in children are:

  • Blood tests. Blood tests measure cells and other items to help diagnose the cause of a heart problem.
  • Cardiac MRI. This imaging test uses radio waves and magnets to show images of the heart on a computer screen.
  • Chest x-rays. Chest x-rays use very small amounts of radiation to make pictures of the chest.
  • CT scans. CT scans move an x-ray beam around the body to create a detailed 2D image of the heart.
  • Echocardiogram (ECHO). An echo is a moving picture of your child's heart in action.
  • Electrophysiology (EP) Tests and Ablation. An EP study is a special type of heart cath that checks the electrical system of the heart.
  • EKG or ECG. An EKG is a quick and easy way to measure the beats of the heart.
  • Exercise Physiology Tests. These tests measure how well your child's heart and lungs work during activity. They also measure how many calories your child burns at rest, so you know how many calories they need.
  • Exercise (Stress) Test. This is the best way for doctors to see how well your child's heart works at — and adjusts to — ­varied activity levels.
  • Fetal heart assessments. This checks your unborn baby's heart using an echo to create pictures of their beating heart.
  • Heart Biopsy. This is a test to check for problems in the muscle tissue of the heart.
  • Heart Catheterization. A heart cath is minimally invasive. Doctors use thin, flexible tubes called “catheters" to look at and get information about the heart from the inside.
  • Holter Monitor. This small machine records your child's heartbeat for 24 hours.
  • Interventional Heart Cath. This is the treatment or repair of a heart problem during a heart cath.
  • Newborn screenings for congenital heart disease. This test measures oxygen levels in a newborn's blood.
  • Physical exams. These exams help doctors find signs of a heart problem. Doctors can listen to your child's heartbeat, check their breathing and pulse, and look for any warning signs of problems.
  • Preventive cardiology including lipids tests. These tests help your doctor watch for possible heart problems. They include blood pressure checks, blood tests to check cholesterol levels, and imaging tests to make sure the heart is working well.
  • Pulse oximetry. This test measures the amount of oxygen in your child's blood using a small device clipped onto their finger, toe, or earlobe.
  • Tilt table tests. This measures your child's blood pressure and heartbeat while they lay on a table that slowly tilts to a standing position. The test shows any changes in vital signs as the table tilts.
  • Transesophageal Echocardiogram (TEE). A TEE is a type of echo that uses “ultrasound" or high-frequency sound waves. These waves echo or “bounce" off the heart to make pictures of the beating heart on a TV screen.
  • Ultrafast Electron Beam CT. This scan checks heart function by taking several pictures of the heart during a single heartbeat.