Heart Attack Tests & Diagnosis

May 7th 2016

The tests associated with a heart attack vary based on your symptoms, health history, and family history. Sometimes, the symptoms are obvious, and a doctor can make a definitive diagnosis that you are experiencing a heart attack. With silent heart attacks, the symptoms are less obvious, and the doctor will need to investigate further using physical exams, monitoring tests, and exploratory tests.

After your heart attack episode, the doctor will conduct follow up tests to determine any underlying problems and to assess whether you have sustained any damage. You might need to undergo extensive monitoring tests and exploratory procedures.

Physical Exam

While you are having a heart attack, the doctor will listen to your heart with a stethoscope to check for any abnormalities such as heart palpitations and irregular heartbeat. During a heart attack, your blood pressure might be normal, but your pulse rate will be high.

After your heart attack, a doctor will probably ask you to come in for a follow up exam to check your heartbeat, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar. If your numbers look irregular, you will need to start immediate treatment.

Monitoring Tests

During a heart attack, the doctor will hook you up to an electrocardiogram (ECG) machine to determine whether your heart is showing any abnormal patterns. The doctor might also closely monitor your oxygen levels. Once your heart is stable, you will be able to go home from the hospital.

The doctor may choose to repeat tests over time to see if any damage has worsened and if your symptoms are improving. Depending on the test, a doctor might need to monitor you for a continuous period of time or at certain intervals (weeks, months, or years).

Blood Tests

When the heart has been damaged, your blood will have elevated levels of certain substances. When the heart tissue is damaged, your blood will have higher levels of the proteins CPK and CPK-MB. Your doctor will also use a blood test to measure your cholesterol levels.

Exploratory Tests

  • An angiogram is a test that the doctor uses to check for blockages in the coronary artery.
  • CT and MRI scans are visual examinations of the heart. The doctor will use these imaging tests to check for any visible irregularities such as injuries, growths, blockages, and tumors of the heart.

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