If you think you’re having a heart attack, get help at once. Be sure to call 9-1-1 right away. Don’t wait to be sure as delay can be deadly.
Once you get help, you will undergo tests to see if a heart attack has actually occurred. Some tests are done at the hospital, while others can be done by emergency medical personnel who come in an ambulance.
Key heart attack tests are:
Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)
This is a graphic record of the electrical activity of the heart as it contracts and relaxes. The ECG can detect abnormal heartbeats, some areas of damage, inadequate blood flow, and heart enlargement.
A blood test will be done routinely to check for enzymes or other substances that are released when cells begin to die. These are “markers” of the amount of damage to your heart.
This test shows areas of the heart that lack blood flow and are damaged. It also can reveal problems with the heart’s pumping action. A small amount of radioactive material is injected into a vein, usually in the arm. A scanning camera positioned over the heart records whether the nuclear material is taken up by the heart muscle (healthy areas) or not (damaged areas). The camera also can evaluate how well the heart muscle pumps blood. This test can be done during both rest and exercise, enhancing the usefulness of its results.
Coronary angiography (or arteriography)
This test is used to check blockages and narrowed areas inside coronary arteries. A fine tube (catheter) is threaded through an artery of an arm or leg up into the heart. A dye that shows up on X ray is then injected into the blood vessel, and the vessels and heart are filmed as the heart pumps. The picture is called an angiogram or arteriogram.
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