Diagnosis of Heart Attack
A heart attack requires immediate emergency medical care. If you think you are having a heart attack, call 911 immediately. At the emergency room, you will be hooked up to a cardiac (heart) monitor, so medical personnel can monitor your heart’s electrical activity. You will also undergo several different tests that will help the doctors to determine the appropriate treatments for you.
The following tests will likely be performed in the hospital:
Blood tests —Certain substances are found in the blood within hours or days after a heart attack. Blood tests will be repeated every 6-8 hours to track certain enzymes (eg, troponins, creatine kinase). Progressive elevation indicates heart muscle damage.
Urine tests —A sample of urine will reveal certain substances within hours or days after a heart attack.
Other tests that may be ordered include:
Nuclear scanning —Radioactive material (such as thallium) is injected into a vein and observed as it is absorbed by the heart muscle. The areas with diminished flow (and therefore uptake of the radioactive material) show up as dark spots on the scan. This test aids in determining heart function.
Computed Tomography Electron-beam CT scan (CT angiography) —This is a type of x-ray test that uses a computer to make detailed pictures of the heart, coronary arteries, and surrounding structures. This type of CT scan detects calcium deposits and cholesterol plaques in the coronary arteries. Based on this and other information, the doctor attempts to determine the risk of heart disease, including heart attacks. This test is not used to determine whether someone just had a heart attack. It can only be helpful in determining the risk of heart disease in some patients. The American Heart Association published guidelines in 2006, indicating those most likely to benefit from the procedure are patients at intermediate risk of coronary artery disease.
American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.americanheart.org . Accessed August 14, 2008.
Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine . 16th ed. McGraw-Hill; 2004.
Mayo Clinic Heart Center website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/heart-attack/DS00094/DSECTION=6. Accessed January 29, 2007.
Last reviewed July 2008 by
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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