Cardiovascular Imaging

The term cardiovascular disease is used to describe disease affecting the heart or arteries, which could lead to heart attack, stroke and blood vessel disease. Coronary artery disease is the leading cause of deaths in Australia. Men are twice as likely as females to be affected by coronary artery disease.
Mackay Radiology offers a full range of medical imaging services for diagnosing cardiovascular imaging for screening and diagnosis.

Cardiovascular imaging services include:

  • Echocardiography
  • Cardiac CT imaging
  • CT angiography
  • Vascular Doppler ultrasound
  • Nuclear medicine heart scans


Echocardiography, or cardiac echo, uses ultrasound waves to evaluate your heart’s health in real-time, including heart shape, size and function, valve and vessel narrowing of incompetence, and heart function. Echocardiography uses B-mode, M-mode, and spectral and colour Doppler to diagnose, manage and further evaluate patients with suspected or known heart disease.

Doppler shows blood flowing into the heart, through the four chambers and back out again. If there are any abnormal communications between the left and right side of the heart, leaking of blood through the valves, and estimate how effectively the heart valves are opening. Multiple measurements are taken and compared to normal and abnormal ranges, for example blood velocity, wall thickness, area of regurgitation or valve stenosis.

The study usually takes between 45 minutes and one hour.
Please bring any previous cardiac imaging that might be relevant to enable a more comprehensive report. You will need to return to the doctor who referred you to discuss your results.

More information about echocardiography

Cardiac CT imaging

Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in Australia and is caused by a slow build up of fatty deposits on the inner walls of the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart muscles. Known as atherosclerosis, when these fatty plaques become significant enough to reduce blood flow to the heart muscles you could get angina (chest pain) or have a heart attack. Plaque build up in arteries begins when people are young and could be well advance by middle age.

Cardiac CT is a non-invasive examination that characterises the heart and coronary arteries as an alternative to more invasive cardiac catheterisation, which remains the gold standard for assessing coronary artery disease. South Coast Radiology is the only private radiology service in the Gold Coast – Tweed Valley region offering a comprehensive cardiac imaging service and provides two key cardiac CT tests – CT coronary angiography (CTCA) and coronary artery calcium scoring (CACS).

CT Coronary Angiography (CTCA) uses advanced CT technology to obtain high-resolution, 3D images of the moving heart and great vessels that flow in and out of the heart. This new, non-invasive test is used to diagnose coronary artery disease.

Previously, functional cardiac assessment such as stress echocardiography and nuclear medicine were used to indirectly assess coronary artery disease. While, cardiac catheterisation and angiogram is used to directly assess coronary artery disease, and remains the gold standard. However, CTCA provides an alternative to invasive cardiac catheterisation because the test is faster (< one minute), presents less risk and discomfort for patients and has a reduced recovery time.
CTCA has developed rapidly, during the past decade. From the early days of quantifying calcium in the coronary arteries, the technique can now demonstrate coronary artery disease with good reliability and accuracy.

Coronary artery calcium scoring (CACS) is a non-invasive test that estimates the amount of coronary artery plaque and patient might have, by assessing the extent of coronary artery calcification using high-resolution 64-slice CT. While a calcium score of ‘zero’ does not rule out arterial disease, there is a low likelihood of significant coronary blockage. A high calcium score correlates with a moderate to high risk of a coronary event, or heart attack, within two to five years.
CACS has a high negative predictive value (up to 98%), which means if your calcium score is low then this correlates very well with you having a low risk of coronary artery disease.

Coronary artery calcium scanning is not useful in those at very low or very high risk, or in those with known coronary artery disease. The reasons for your doctor requesting CACS include:

  • Screening asymptomatic patients
  • Screening patients with intermediate risk of coronary artery disease
  • Presence of one risk factor such as hypertension
  • Strong family history of early coronary artery disease

More information about cardiac CT

CT angiography

CT angiography or CTA combines conventional CT scan technology with traditional angiography to create high-detail images of blood vessels. Computed Tomography (CT) is a non-invasive medical test that helps doctors diagnose and treat medical conditions. CT combines x-rays, an array of detectors that rotate around your body, and sophisticated computers to produce detailed cross-sectional images.

Angiography uses an injection of contrast media into a large blood vessel, usually in your groin, to visualise blood vessels and blood flow. When the contrast media is injected into a vein the study is called a venogram, and when injected into an artery the study is called an arteriogram. Your doctor might order CT angiography to diagnose a narrowing or blockage of the arteries, an aneurysm, deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, or any other vascular problem.
More information about CT angiography

Vascular duplex ultrasound

Vascular ultrasound provides images and functional information about leg and arm arteries and veins. Because ultrasound is real-time imaging, it can show the actual blood flow through arteries, veins and organs. In vascular ultrasound, Doppler is used to evaluate the direction and speed of blood as well as the width of the vessel lumen, as blood flows through vessels in the abdomen, arms, legs and neck. Vascular ultrasound can also be used to assess tumours and congenital or acquired vascular malformations.
During vascular and cardiac ultrasound you’ll hear a pulsating noise that reflects your heartbeat and the speed of blood in the area of interest. The sonographer will apply gel and place a transducer, which transmits sound, over the target area. The movement of blood causes a change in frequency in the reflected sound waves (the Doppler effect) and a computer processes the frequency shift to create colour images, as well as a moving graph, which is used to measure important criteria, such as peak systolic velocity.

Your doctor might request a vascular ultrasound to assess:

  • Aorta – to check for aortic aneurysm
  • Carotid arteries of the neck – to check for arterial disease and blockages
  • Leg or arm arteries – to check for vessel disease and blockages
  • Check artery or vein size and position prior to surgery