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.
Someone in the prime of their life -- a professional sports star, teen athlete, marathon runner, or other seemingly healthy person -- isn't supposed to collapse and die from heart disease. But it occasionally happens, making sudden cardiac arrest front-page news.
The rare nature of sudden cardiac arrest among the young is precisely what makes it so attention-grabbing. According to the Cleveland Clinic, sudden cardiac death kills 1 in 100,000 to 1 in 300,000 athletes under age 35, more often males...
If your tests show that you are at risk of having or are having a heart attack, your doctor will probably recommend that you have cardiac catheterization. The doctor can then see whether your coronary arteries are blocked and how your heart functions.
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 blood flow.
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.