Chest Pain Cause Diagnostic Test

If you are experiencing chest pains, your doctor will likely want to conduct a series of tests to determine whether your chest pain is caused by a benign or serious medical condition. While some patients will be diagnosed after only one test, others may require a number of tests in order for their doctors to make a complete diagnosis.

Before starting any diagnostic tests, your doctor will want to review your medical history as well as the medical history of your family. He will also want to review a list of your symptoms and will want to perform a physical examination, during which time he will listen to your heart and will note any irregularities.

The type of diagnostic test you undergo will depend, in part, on the condition from which your doctor believes you are suffering. While chest pain accompanied by an irregular heart beat may require an electrocardiogram, other types of chest pain may require X-rays and blood tests.

In this section, we’ll discuss the different tests doctors use to examine chest pain and determine its causes. We’ll outline what you can expect from each procedure and also discuss any potential side effects.

ECG

Doctors often use an electrocardiogram (ECG) to detect signs of an irregular heartbeat. However, physicians will also use ECGs to detect other disorders, including angina, atrial fibrillation, as well as heart attacks.

ECG results are a complex record of the electrical activity of the heart. During an ECG, a technician or nurse will attach electrodes to your arms, legs and chest. These electrodes are used to detect and make a visual representation of the electric impulses that are generated by the heart.

In order to diagnose heart conditions, your doctor can look at your ECG results and compare them to normal ECG results. Discrepancies in the ECG results may indicate an irregular heartbeat or other conditions.

Stress Test

Doctors will often ask you to undergo a stress test in order to see how well your heart performs. Sometimes called an exercise test or a treadmill test, a stress test calls for the patient to walk slowly on a treadmill, which is gradually tilted and brought up to a faster pace to stimulate the effect of walking up a small hill.

During the test, the patient will likely breathe into a tube for several minutes so that a doctor can check his breathing. After the test, a physician or a nurse will check the patient’s heart rate as well as his blood pressure.

Often, an ECG is also conducted with a stress test.

Blood Tests

If you are experiencing chest pain, your doctor might perform blood tests to see if your blood contains increased levels of certain enzymes that are normally found in your heart. These enzymes may leak into your blood if heart cells have experienced damage from a heart attack.

Though relatively simple, blood tests can tell doctors a lot about the health of your heart.

Resources

Cohen, J. (n.d.). Electrocardiogram (ECG). Retrieved October 23, 2007, from the eMedicineHealth Web site: http://www.emedicinehealth.com/electrocardiogram_ecg/page11_em.htm.

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research Staff. (n.d.). Chest pain. Retrieved October 23, 2007, from the CNN.com Web site: http://www.cnn.com/HEALTH/library/DS/00016.html.