Heart Attack

Diagnosis

If You Have Symptoms, Call 9-1-1

Diagnosis and treatment of a heart attack can begin when emergency personnel arrive after you call 9-1-1. Do not put off calling 9-1-1 because you are not sure if you are having a heart attack. Call right away.

At the hospital emergency room, doctors will work fast to find out if you are having or have had a heart attack. They will consider your symptoms, medical and family history, and test results. Initial tests will be quickly followed by treatment if you are having a heart attack.

Diagnostic Tests

Tests used in diagnosing a heart attack include

  • an electrocardiogram
  • blood tests
  • cardiac catheterization
  • and coronary angiography.

An electrocardiogram, also known as ECG or EKG, is used to measure the rate and regularity of your heartbeat. Learn more about electrocardiograms.

Blood tests are also used in diagnosing a heart attack. When cells in the heart die, they release proteins into the blood. They are called markers or biomarkers. Measuring the amount of these proteins in the blood can show how much damage was done to your heart. Doctors often repeat these tests to check for changes.

In cardiac catheterization, a thin, flexible tube is passed through an artery in your groin, arm, or neck to reach the coronary arteries. The tube is used to get dye into coronary arteries. Learn more about cardiac catheterizations.

Coronary angiography is usually done with the cardiac catheterization. Special x rays are taken while the dye is flowing through the coronary arteries. The dye lets the doctor see the flow of blood through the heart and blood vessels. Coronary angiography shows where there are blockages and how severe they are. Learn more about coronary angiography.