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Published on October 07, 2016

What’s taking your breath away? New test can pinpoint the cause

Lately, you’ve been short of breath a lot—maybe when you’re walking just a short block or even lying down. And you wonder why.

Blowing a wishNow an innovative diagnostic test at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital can help doctors figure out the cause of your breathlessness. It’s called a cardiopulmonary exercise test (CPET). And only a handful of hospitals in the area offer it.

A more accurate diagnosis

The test is a crucial one since unexplained breathlessness is more common than you might suspect.

“Many different heart and lung problems can trigger trouble breathing,” says Martin O’Riordan, MD, Chief of Cardiology at Mercy Fitzgerald. “That can make an accurate diagnosis difficult.”

CPET is a highly specialized type of exercise stress test. A standard one only evaluates your heart as you exercise—nothing else. Typically, doctors use it to find blockages in heart blood vessels.

In contrast, CPET evaluates how well your heart, lungs and muscles work—individually and together—as you peddle on a stationary bike.

With this big picture, doctors can pinpoint which system is to blame for breathlessness and a specific cause, too, such as heart failure, a leaky valve or blood clots in the lungs.

“This state-of-the-art test helps solve the mystery of unexplained shortness of breath,” Dr. O’Riordan says. And with an accurate diagnosis, you can get the effective treatment you need.

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