Heart Attack - Diagnosis

Not ready to share? Read other Patient Comments

Please describe the events that led to a diagnosis of a heart attack. What tests and exams did you have?

Share your story with others:

MedicineNet appreciates your comment. Your comment may be displayed on the site and will always be published anonymously.Patient Comments FAQs

Enter your Comment

Tell us a bit about your background to make your comments more useful to other MedicineNet users. (Optional)

Screen Name: *

Gender of Patient: Male Female

Age Range of Patient:

I am a: Patient Caregiver

* Screen Name will appear next to the published comment. Please do not include your full name or email address.

By submitting your comment, and other materials (collectively referred to as a "Submission") to MedicineNet, you grant MedicineNet permission to use, copy, transmit, publish, display, edit and modify your Submission in connection with its Web site. MedicineNet will not pay you for your Submission. You represent that you have all rights necessary for MedicineNet to use your Submission as set forth above.

Please keep these guidelines in mind when writing your comment:

  • Please make sure you address the question asked.
  • Due to the overwhelming number of comments received, not all comments will be published.
  • When selecting comments to publish, our staff will choose those that are educational and complement the topic. Please try to stay on topic.
  • Your comment may be edited. We would typically edit comments to make them clearer and more readable. We will remove personal information such as last names, email and web addresses, and other potentially harmful information.
  • We will not notify you if your comment has been published. We suggest that you check back on the topic article regularly.
  • We do not provide medical or healthcare advice, treatment, or diagnosis.

Thank you for participating!

I have read and agree to abide by the MedicineNet Terms and Conditions and the MedicineNet Privacy Policy (required).

To prevent our systems from spam, please complete the following prior to submitting your comment.

Please select the white square:

How is a heart attack diagnosed?

When there is severe chest pain, suspicion that a heart attack is occurring usually is high, and tests can be performed quickly that will confirm the heart attack. A problem arises, however, when the symptoms of a heart attack do not include chest pain. A heart attack may not be suspected, and the appropriate tests may not be performed. Therefore, the initial step in diagnosing a heart attack is to be suspicious that one has occurred so that the appropriate tests can be done.

Electrocardiogram. An electrocardiogram (ECG) is a recording of the electrical activity of the heart. Abnormalities in the electrical activity usually occur with heart attacks and can identify the areas of heart muscle that are deprived of oxygen and/or areas of muscle that have died. In a patient with typical symptoms of heart attack (such as crushing chest pain) and characteristic changes of heart attack on the ECG, a secure diagnosis of heart attack can be made quickly in the emergency room and treatment can be started immediately. If a patient's symptoms are vague or atypical and if there are pre-existing ECG abnormalities, for example, from old heart attacks or abnormal electrical patterns that make interpretation of the ECG difficult, the diagnosis of a heart attack may be less secure. In these patients, the diagnosis can be made only hours later through blood tests.

Blood tests. Cardiac enzymes are proteins that are released into the blood by dying heart muscles. These cardiac enzymes are creatine phosphokinase (CPK), special sub-fractions of CPK (specifically, the MB fraction of CPK), and troponin, and their levels can be measured in blood. These cardiac enzymes typically are elevated in the blood several hours after the onset of a heart attack. Currently, troponin levels are considered the preferred lab tests to use to help diagnose a heart attack, as they are indicators of cardiac muscle injury or death. A series of blood tests for the enzymes performed over a 24-hour period are useful not only in confirming the diagnosis of heart attack, but the changes in their levels over time also correlates with the amount of heart muscle that has died.

The most important factor in diagnosing and treating a heart attack is prompt medical attention. Rapid evaluation allows early treatment of potentially life-threatening abnormal rhythms such as ventricular fibrillation and allows early reperfusion (return of blood flow to the heart muscle) by procedures that unclog the blocked coronary arteries. The more rapidly blood flow is reestablished, the more heart muscle that is saved. At this time, mechanical reperfusion with angioplasty and/or stenting to increase the flow of blood to the heart is the preferred way to preserve heart muscle if it can be performed within 90 minutes of arrival to the hospital; if there will be a delay, thrombolytic agents (clot busters) are preferred.

Large and active medical centers often have a "chest pain unit" where patients suspected of having heart attacks are rapidly evaluated. If a heart attack is diagnosed, prompt therapy is initiated. If the diagnosis of heart attack is initially unclear, the patient is placed under continuous monitoring until the results of further testing are available.

Return to Heart Attack

See what others are saying

Comment from: knucklehead, 55-64 Male (Patient) Published: December 13

I felt a little pressure in the center of my chest and elevated breathing for about 20 seconds while walking through an airport early one morning. It went away quickly. Two days later, I was riding my bicycle and the pressure and elevated breathing happened again, this time stronger. But after I stopped and rested, it went away. I assumed it was acid reflux since it was in the center of my chest and not on the left side. Over several days, I realized that whenever I walked 50 yards or more, the pressure and shortness of breath would occur, but would go away when I stopped and rested. I finally told my wife, we went to the emergency room, they ran blood tests, etc. and everything looked fine. I was told to return in 2 days for a stress test. I failed the stress test, they performed an angioplasty, found I had 99% stenosis (blockage) in my right coronary artery. They immediately put a stent in.

Was this comment helpful?Yes
Comment from: billy, 45-54 Male (Patient) Published: July 21

I was a 50 years old truck driver. I was lying on my side in bed at a hotel and got what felt like a cramp in my chest. It would go away for few minutes then return. I got cold sweats and it moved up to my jaw. It was 2 am and I called 911 who sent an ambulance to the hotel. The paramedic in the ambulance hooked me up to EKG and immediately tried to start an IV without saying anything. It was a 20 minute ride to the nearest hospital, they rushed right in, hooked me up to an EKG, and said I was having a heart attack. I was rushed to the lab where they installed 2 stents in two separate places in the same artery. One place was 100 percent blocked and another place behind it with a 90 percent blockage. Calling 911 saved my life. I didn't think it was a heart attack but I was wrong; thanks to the cardiologist for saving my life.

Was this comment helpful?Yes


Get the latest health and medical information delivered direct to your inbox!

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors