How Is a Heart Attack Diagnosed?

A heart attack may be caused by a sudden blockage of the coronary artery. A heart attack can be deadly, but prevented. Knowing the risk factors and detecting the early warning signs can greatly impact survival. Another name for a heart attack is a myocardial infarction.

Physical Examination

A cardiologist will assess the symptoms and conduct a thorough evaluation. The skin color will be examined, pulse and heart rate checked, heart rhythm and regularity assessed, and blood pressure monitored. Your doctor will collect all of the pertinent information and move forward with blood tests.

Lab Tests

A blood analysis is needed to identify risk factors related to coronary artery disease. If there is a presence of particular proteins that affect clotting, precautionary measures are taken. Lipid blood tests and enzyme and protein tests are conducted in the lab. Your doctor will receive the result of your blood tests for review and diagnosis.

Imaging Tests

Imaging tests may be required so that the doctor can get a clear view of the heart and electrical impulses affecting the heart rate. Echocardiograms reveal images of the heart valves and chambers to show the pumping activity. Electrocardiograms measure the electrical activity of the heart through the use of electrodes attached to various parts of the body. Blood flow is assessed as well as any heat abnormalities associated with a heart attack.

Other imaging tests may include a stress test or exercise stress test, radiographic tests of the heart and nuclear imaging as needed.

Invasive Exams

Cardiac catheterization can be used to capture images of the heart and blood stream activities when a material is injected into the circulatory system. The current situation of the heart can be assessed and future treatment determined.

In some cases an intravascular ultrasound may be required for assessment of the heart. High frequency sound waves are used to reveal a cross section of the artery walls, including the interior layers. A sound probe is used, as it is placed through the coronary arteries for assessment.

If you suspect a heart attack or are at risk of having a heart attack, you should see your heart doctor right away for assessment. A timely diagnosis can save your life. Your cardiologist can determine the most effective treatment based on the symptoms you report and the diagnosis of the problem. In some cases, a heart attack may be brought on by heart problems and conditions that can be prevented.