The Christchurch Heart Group provides a full range of diagnostic services, as well as consultancy on the best treatment and management plans for ongoing heart conditions or recovery.
Services that we provide include:


With a referral from your GP we can talk to you about your history and any symptoms you may be experiencing in order to begin the diagnostic process. By talking to you about the nature of your symptoms, we can determine what testing may be required for a more accurate diagnosis.


Treadmill tests are used to determine what is happening to your heart when is forced to work harder. Electrodes are placed on the patient’s chest, and a blood pressure monitor on the arm, and they will then jog or run on the treadmill. A treadmill test that is clearly negative for any abnormalities following a significant level of exercise indicates good cardiac function.
This quick and easy test records the electrical signals of the heart. The test takes about 5 minutes and can provide crucial information to your cardiologist about your heart rhythm, the nature of any previous heart attack you may have had, the thickness of your heart muscle, any signs of inadequate amounts of oxygen reaching your heart, or any signs of any problems with the electrical system of your heart. The test itself is a simple matter of placing sticky pads on the chest and allowing the ECG machine to translate the information it records from these into a chart.
The Holter test is essentially an ECG that conducted over a 24 hour period. The patient wears a small Holter recorder and sticky pads for a 24 hour period, and the results of this test are later analysed by your cardiologist via computer to determine what times and activities may be associated with the production of cardiac symptoms. It is an important test in diagnosing the causes of heart palpitations.
An Ambulatory Blood Pressure Unit takes regular blood pressure readings from a test subject over a 24 hour period, allowing your cardiologist to monitor changes in your blood pressure over time. This helps them to determine the best method of treatment for any high blood pressure problems.
An echocardiogram is a non-invasive technique used to examine the structure of the heart and make sure it is functioning properly. An ultrasound probe is used to “bounce” high frequency sound waves off the heart and blood vessels, creating an ‘echo’ that returns to the probe and is interpreted into moving imagery of the heart. Blood movement can also be monitored with the test, which is useful for examining heart valves and congenital heart problems (such as holes in the heart).
A stress echocardiogram combines echocardiography with exercise. By doing this, cardiologists can directly compare heart function before and after exercise directly. An echocardiogram is made before exercise, the patient will then use a treadmill, and a second echocardiogram will be taken again immediately afterward. This test is useful in the diagnosis of a range of cardiac conditions.
A TOE is a specialist echocardiogram procedure conducted by passing the ultrasound probe through the mouth to the oesophagus. So positioned, the probe produces very high quality images, particularly of the structures at the back of the heart (the back of the heart is found directly forward of the oesophagus). This test is performed when an ordinary echocardiogram is not adequate to diagnose certain heart conditions.
Angiography is the term for the medical field that deals with of veins and arteries if the body. In relation to suspected (or known) heart conditions, angiography is typically used in assessment of the coronary arteries that transport blood into the muscle of the heart. The usual cause of a heart attack is the blockage of one of these arteries. Angiography to assess cardiac complaints is most often performed via an artery in the groin or in the wrist. After local anaesthetic is administered, a catheter (a long plastic tube) is inserted into the artery and guided to the vessel that requires study.



Coronary Intervention and Peripheral Vascular Intervention

Using the procedure of angioplasty, narrowed arteries can be opened by the inflation of a balloon from inside the artery. In the majority of cases, coronary angioplasty will also involve the permanent insertion of a tube of fine metal mesh called a stent. Use of stents has made the angioplasty procedures safer, and, by reducing the chances that the artery will narrow again, has also made the procedures more effective. The role of angioplasty is to relieve the narrowing of arteries that may have occurred due to atherosclerosis ("hardening" of the arteries) to allow normal blood flow, and in doing so relieve angina and reduce the chances of a heart attack.

Angioplasty procedures do carry some risk of complications, and your cardiologist will discuss these with you in-depth if the treatment is being considered.


PFO / ASD Closure

The foramen ovale allows blood to bypass the lungs in a developing fetus, and usually closes after birth when the baby begins breathing. However, it does not completely close in about 20% of the general population, and studies have shown this may be an important factor in the cause of strokes in people under the age of 50. Although strokes in this age group are relatively uncommon, about 50% of those under the age of 50 who do suffer some form of stroke have a patent (partly open) foramen ovale (PFO).

The risk of another stroke or death for such patients is believed to be around 3.8 to 5.5% per year; performing a procedure via a catheter through a vein in the groin to close the PFO seems to reduce this risk by about half, to approximately 2% per year. Closure of a PFO through this method (which avoids open heart surgery) is therefore medically recommended in these circumstances.

Atrial septal defect (ASD) is a congenital heart defect that enables blood flow between the left and right chambers of the heart via the interatrial septum. This results in mixing of arterial and venous blood. The potential long term complications of this if left untreated can include dilatation of the right side of the heart, abnormal heart rhythms, breathlessness, and an increased risk of stroke.

ASD used to require open heart surgery to repair. In more recent times though, ASDs have been closed via a catheter inserted into a vein in the groin. This percutaneous method of ASD closure has a low complication rate, requires only a short hospital stay (typically with next day discharge),and provides very good long term results.