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How is a heart attack diagnosed?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

A heart attack is diagnosed based on symptoms, diagnostic tests, and family history. When a person arrives at the hospital with symptoms of a heart attack, the medical staff begins by checking temperature, blood pressure, and pulse. A doctor will test the electrical activity of the heart using an electrocardiogram (EKG). Blood tests are also used to diagnose a heart attack.

When a cell from the heart dies, the cell bursts, releasing specific proteins into the bloodstream. Higher concentration of these proteins indicates a heart attack has occurred or is continuing, so doctors can test for those proteins to diagnose. Coronary angiography uses an X-ray of the heart and blood vessels to identify the location of the blocked artery. An echocardiogram produces images of the beating heart that allows the medical team to determine if the heart is beating normally. During a nuclear scan, radioactive material is injected into the body to identify areas of reduced blood flow to the heart.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.