How is a heart attack detected?
In order to properly diagnose the heart attack, the emergency care team, normally the ambulance team to first get to you or the person having a heart attack, will evaluate and check the symptoms. If you are with someone who is having a heart attack, you may also be asked about the sufferer’s symptoms should they be unconscious.
The primary goal is to administer the necessary treatment as quickly as possible in order to limit the amount of damage to the heart muscle. The diagnosis is determined on the symptoms and applicable test results.
What tests are conducted to diagnose the heart attack?
There are a number of tests that are conducted to diagnose a heart attack, these are:
- An electrocardiogram (ECG), this is used to determine how much damage has occurred to the heart muscle and where the damage has occurred, it also evaluates your heart rate and rhythm. It shows the heart’s electrical activity on paper with line tracings. These are waves drawn on the paper called spikes and dips.
- Blood tests to measure the cardiac enzymes levels that indicate the extent of damage to the heart muscle. These enzymes are usually found on the inside of the cells of your heart and are needed for the function of the cells. When the heart muscle cells become damaged, the cell content and enzymes are released into the bloodstream, the amount released helps your doctor to determine the size and start of the heart attack.
Troponin proteins are also found in the cells of the heart and are released when they are damaged due to a heart attack, when these proteins are detected in the blood it may indicate a heart attack.
- An echocardiography can also be conducted. It is a sound test to show how the heart is pumping and what areas are functioning normally. This test can be used during or after a heart attack. The test gives off echoes to reflect the pumping of the heart and can also determine if any structures of the heart have been damaged during the heart attack.
- A cardiac cath (cardiac catheterization) may also be used in the first few hours of the heart attack if the medication is not able to relieve the symptoms. It can be used to determine where the blocked artery is and what procedure to undergo to directly fix the blockage.
How this works is a probe is inserted into your blood vessels through the use of a flexible tube known as a catheter. This gives your doctor a direct visualisation of the affected area and where the plaque may have built up. A dye can also be injected through the catheter and into your arteries to see how the blood flows and examined through the use of an X-ray to determine if there are any blockages.