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Diagnosis

If you are having a heart attack or suspect you are having one, your diagnosis likely will take place in an emergency room. You will have your blood pressure, pulse and temperature checked and will be asked about your symptoms. Then you will be hooked up to a heart monitor and a number of tests will be conducted immediately.

Diagnostic Tests

These tests include:

Blood Tests

These tests check for levels of certain fats, cholesterol, sugar and proteins called troponins in the blood that help determine if you are having a heart attack.

ECG/EKG Waves

Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG)

This is a painless, noninvasive test in which patches with electrodes are attached to your skin to measure electrical impulses produced by your heart.

These impulses are recorded as waves displayed on a monitor or printed out on graph paper. The test can reveal evidence of a previous heart attack or one that is in progress.

Echocardiogram

This test uses sound waves to create a moving picture of your heart.

  • Provides information about the size and shape of your heart and how well your heart chambers and valves are functioning.
  • Identifies areas of poor blood flow to the heart, areas of heart muscle that aren't contracting normally, and previous injury to the heart muscle caused by poor blood flow.

The test is noninvasive and is performed by placing a probe on your chest wall. It is the same technique used in sonograms in pregnant women.

Coronary Catheterization

To see the blood flowing to your heart, your doctor may perform a coronary catheterization. This involves injecting a dye into your arteries in what is called an angiogram.

The dye is delivered through a long, thin, flexible tube called a catheter that is threaded through a leg artery into the coronary arteries. This is called catheterization.

AngiographyThe dye outlines areas of blockages on x-ray images. If a blockage is found and needs treatment, a balloon can be pushed through the catheter and inflated to open the artery or arteries in question. A stent or tiny wire mesh tube can then be inserted to keep the artery open.

This procedure is done in the hospital.

Watch Video Animation

To watch a video animation of a coronary angiography, click here.

Contact Information

Cardiovascular Medicine
Division of the CardioVascular Institute
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
330 Brookline Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
617-667-8800

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