To determine the occurrence of systolic heart failure and differentiate it from diastolic heart failure, doctors generally perform an echocardiogram, which is a test that creates a moving image of a patient's heart using sound waves, according to Mayo Clinic. The test allows doctors to view the heart's shape and size as well as assess the heart's pumping ability.
An echocardiogram enables doctors to identify causes of heart failure, indications of earlier heart attacks or other heart abnormalities, as Mayo Clinic explains. During the test, a doctor measures the patient's ejection fraction, which helps determine the pumping performance of the heart and allows the doctor to classify heart failure in addition to choosing an appropriate treatment.
An echocardiogram involves the use of a transducer, which sends high-pitched sound waves and receives echoes of the sound waves reflected from various parts of the heart, as WebMD details. The echoes become moving images of the heart that a doctor views on a video screen. The most common type of echocardiogram is the transthoracic echocardiogram, in which a physician moves the transducer to various parts of the chest or abdominal wall to view different parts of the heart.
Another type of echocardiogram is a stress echocardiogram, in which a physician performs an echocardiogram before and after stressing the heart, according to WebMD. This test allows the physician to determine if a patient has low blood flow to the heart.