How is unstable angina diagnosed?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

The symptoms of unstable angina-such as sudden pain or pressure in the chest and shortness of breath-are similar to the symptoms of a heart attack. Both of these are conditions needing emergency medical attention and are often diagnosed in the hospital when people go to the emergency room for care. It is difficult for doctors to tell by symptoms alone whether the chest pain is unstable angina or heart attack, but certain tests can help. An electrocardiogram (ECG) gives doctors information about the electrical signal that tells your heart to beat. Irregularities in this electrical signal can show that you are having a heart attack, rather than an episode of unstable angina. Blood tests can also help doctors tell the difference between angina and heart attack.

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