When you arrive at
the hospital, the emergency room doctor will take your history and do a
physical exam, and a more complete ECG will be done. A technician will draw blood to test for
cardiac enzymes, which are released into the
bloodstream when heart cells die.
We've all heard the stories: someone seemingly healthy, with normal
cholesterol levels and no obvious risk factors, drops dead of a heart attack.
How can this happen?
Morteza Naghavi, MD, says it's because traditional risk factors may not tell
you what you really need to know: whether your arteries are diseased.
"Why are cholesterol, smoking, family history so lousy? Because they're
just risk factors," says Naghavi, chairman of the Society for Heart Attack
Prevention and Eradication (SHAPE)...
If your tests show that you are at
risk of having or are having a
heart attack, your doctor will probably recommend that
cardiac catheterization. The doctor can then see whether your coronary arteries are blocked and how your
If your tests
do not clearly show a heart attack or unstable
angina and you do not have other risk factors (such as a previous heart
attack), you will probably have other tests. These may include a cardiac perfusion
scan or SPECT imaging test.
If your tests do not show signs of a heart attack but
your doctor thinks you have unstable angina and may be in danger of having a
heart attack, you will be admitted to the hospital.
Testing after a heart attack
From 2 to 3 days
after a heart attack or after being admitted to the hospital for unstable
angina, you may have more tests. (Even though you may have had some of these tests while you were in the emergency room, you may have some of them again.)
Doctors use these tests to see how well your heart is working and to
find out whether undamaged areas of the heart are still receiving enough
These tests may include:
Echocardiogram (echo). An echo is used to find out several things about the heart, including its size, thickness, movement, and blood flow.
Stress electrocardiogram (such as
treadmill testing). This test compares your ECG while you are at rest to
your ECG after your heart has been stressed, either through physical exercise
(treadmill or bike) or by using a medicine.