Providers diagnose a heart attack based on signs and symptoms, medical and family history, and the results of one or more diagnostic tests. Dr. Patel, can you tell us about the tests used to diagnose a heart attack?
Absolutely, Dr. Mansfield. One test used to diagnose a heart attack is an electrocardiogram, or EKG. An EKG is a simple, painless test that uses electrodes placed on the skin to detect and record the heart's electrical activity. The test shows how fast the heart is beating and whether its rhythm is steady or irregular. It also records the strength and timing of electrical signals as they pass through each part of the heart. In addition to showing signs of a previous or current heart attack, an EKG can show signs of heart damage due to coronary artery disease.
Providers may also use a variety of blood tests in diagnosing a heart attack. During a heart attack, heart muscle cells die and release proteins into the bloodstream. Blood tests can measure the amount of these proteins in the bloodstream. Higher than normal levels of these proteins suggest a heart attack.
Another diagnostic test used by providers is called coronary angiography. This test uses dye and special x-rays to show the insides of the coronary arteries. Coronary angiography is often done during a heart attack to help locate blockages in the arteries.