Tests for heart attacks

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If a diagnosis of a heart attack is suspected, certain tests will be conducted to confirm the diagnosis. These tests will be conducted swiftly so as to prevent any delay in starting treatment.

Below are the commonly performed tests to diagnose a heart attack.

1. Electrocardiogram

This is the best and the quickest test to confirm a heart attack. Changes seen on the ECG can clearly indicate any damage to the heart.

In fact, an ECG is so sensitive, that studies have shown that having a normal ECG when suffering from chest pain makes the likelihood of having complications around 6 in 1000. However, if the ECG is abnormal, the risk of complications is around 14 in 100. This is a significant difference.

It only takes a few minutes to perform an ECG, and the information it offers is invaluable. The ECG is usually the first test that is performed in a patient with chest pain (or if being suspected of having a heart attack).

Sometimes, patients who give a good history of cardiac chest pain may require ECGs at different intervals. This is because the ECG can evolve over time, and performing multiple ECGs can help pick up these changes. This is a good way of determining if a patient is having a heart attack. It also helps to diagnose the condition sooner rather than later.

You can read more about ECG here.

2. Blood tests

Simple blood tests can determine if there is any damage to the heart muscle. In addition, blood tests are also useful in picking up risk factors like high lipid levels (cholesterol) and kidney disease.

A specific blood test that can help determine if the heart muscle has suffered any damage is the troponin test. Troponin is a compound that is released into the blood stream when the heart muscle is damaged. It is often present in very small amounts in healthy individuals, but rises to extremely high levels in case the heart is damaged from a heart attack.

The troponin is a useful test and is performed in all patients who are suspected of having a heart attack.

Other blood tests include creatine kinase (CK), which is also a breakdown product of heart muscle protein. The levels of CK rise when the heart muscle is damaged.


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