Coronary Artery Disease - Exams and Tests
To find out if you have or are at
coronary artery disease, your doctor will do a
physical exam and check your risk based on your health and risk factors.
You may then have several different kinds of tests to check your risk for
getting heart disease. If your doctor thinks you have heart disease, you will
need more tests to make sure.
Tests to measure your risk for coronary artery disease
The main tests your doctor uses to check your risk for
getting heart disease include:
- Blood pressure. High blood
pressure increases your risk for heart disease.
- Cholesterol (a blood test). High
cholesterol increases your risk for heart disease.
Your doctor will use your blood pressure, cholesterol, and other risk factors such as your age and if you smoke, to know your risk of heart disease. If you know your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, you can check your risk for a heart attack:
- Interactive Tool: Are You at Risk for a Heart Attack?
Other tests may help your doctor find out your risk for heart disease, especially when they are considered along with your other risk factors. But these tests are not helpful for everyone. Such tests may include:
Sometimes doctors schedule routine tests because they think that's what patients expect. But experts say routine heart tests can be a waste of time and money. See the topic Heart Tests: When Do You Need Them?
Tests to diagnose coronary artery disease
your doctor thinks you may have heart disease, you will need some tests to make
sure. Most often, the first tests include:
Other tests may include:
- Cardiac perfusion scan. This test
shows if you have enough blood flow to the heart.
- Echocardiogram and stress echocardiogram. This test uses ultrasound to see areas of poor blood
flow in the heart. It can also check how well your heart is working after a
heart attack. The test can help your doctor find out how much blood your heart
is pumping during each heartbeat (ejection fraction).
- Coronary angiogram. This is an X-ray
test that creates pictures of the blood flow through your
coronary arteries. It allows your doctor to see any
blockage or narrowing of the artery. It's done using a soft, thin tube
(catheter) that is put in a blood vessel in the arm or groin and gently moved
into the heart. For more information, see the topic:
- Heart Disease: Should I Have an Angiogram?
- CT angiogram. CT (computed tomography) angiograms use X-rays to get detailed pictures of the heart and its blood vessels.