A heart attack is a medical emergency. If you think you are having a heart attack, call for emergency medical services right away.
On the way to, or within minutes of your arrival at the hospital, you will be hooked up to an electrocardiogram (EKG), which monitors your heart's electrical activity. A healthy heart creates a specific pattern on an EKG. A heart attack and heart damage will cause disruptions to this pattern.
Once you get to the hospital, other diagnostic tests will be done to confirm if you had a heart attack. Tests may include:
Blood tests look for markers of a heart attack. Specifc substances are found in the blood within hours or days after a heart attack. Blood tests may need to be repeated in order to track the enzymes. Progressive elevation of the enzymes indicates heart cell death and heart muscle damage. Substances include:
- Troponins—a group of proteins involved in heart muscle contraction
- Creatine kinase (CK)—can be used if troponin testing is unavailable
- Myoglobin—can be useful for diagnosis when used in combination with other blood tests
Blood tests can also be used to evaluate glucose, electrolyte, and cholesterol levels, as well as blood clotting time.
Coronary CT Angiography
A coronary CT scan uses an injected dye to detect calcium deposits and cholesterol plaques in the coronary arteries. A catheter is threaded through a distant artery to a coronary artery. The injected dye highlights areas where blood flow to the heart is reduced or completely blocked.
If narrowing or blockage is found, it can be relieved with a balloon, stent, or other procedure.