Heart Disease (cont.)
Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM
Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
Daniel Lee Kulick, MD, FACC, FSCAI
Dr. Kulick received his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Southern California, School of Medicine. He performed his residency in internal medicine at the Harbor-University of California Los Angeles Medical Center and a fellowship in the section of cardiology at the Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Medical Center. He is board certified in Internal Medicine and Cardiology.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
In this Article
- Heart disease facts
- Introduction to heart disease
- What are the risk factors for heart disease?
- What are the symptoms of heart disease?
- How is heart disease diagnosed?
- Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)
- Stress testing
- Perfusion studies
- Computerized tomography
- Heart catheterization or coronary angiography
- What is the treatment for heart disease?
- Prevention of heart disease
- Modifying risk factors for heart disease
- Medications for heart disease
- Angioplasty and stents for heart disease
- Surgery for heart disease
- Heart Disease FAQs
- Find a local Cardiologist in your town
How is heart disease diagnosed?
The diagnosis of heart disease begins with obtaining a history that the potential for coronary artery disease exists. Risk factors need to be assessed and risk stratification occurs. The type of testing that is recommended, if any, depends upon the potential that the patient's symptoms actually represent angina and are coming from the heart.
Heart disease tests
Not every patient with chest pain needs heart catheterization (the most invasive test). Instead, the healthcare provider will try to choose the testing modality that will best provide the diagnosis, and if coronary artery disease is present, decide what impairment, if any, is present.
Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)
The heart is an electrical pump, and the electrical impulses it generates can be detected on the surface of the skin. Normal muscle conducts electricity in a reproducible fashion. Muscle that has decreased blood supply conducts electricity poorly. Muscle that has lost its blood supply and has been replaced with scar tissue cannot conduct electricity. The electrocardiogram (EKG) is a noninvasive test used to reflect underlying heart conditions by measuring the electrical activity of the heart.
Some people have "abnormal" EKGs at baseline but this may be normal for them. It is important that an electrocardiogram be compared to previous tracings if one is available. If a patient has a baseline abnormal EKG, they should consider carrying a copy with them for reference should they ever need another EKG.
If the baseline EKG is relatively normal, then monitoring the EKG tracing while the patient exercises may uncover electrical changes that may indicate the presence of coronary artery disease. There are a variety of testing protocols used to determine whether the exercise intensity is high enough to prove that the heart is normal.
Some patients are unable to exercise on a treadmill, but they can still undergo cardiac stress testing by using intravenous medication that causes the heart to work harder.
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