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Diagnosis of coronary artery disease

Heart Health By Dr Poonam Sachdev , Expert Content / Oct 31, 2017
Diagnosis of coronary artery disease

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is diagnosed based on your medical history, physical exam and tests. Tests that are usually done if CAD is suspected include electrocardiogram, Holter monitoring, echocardiogram, stress test and cardiac or coronary an

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is diagnosed based on your medical history, physical exam and tests. Your doctor may recommend one or more diagnostic tests to confirm the diagnosis of CAD.



  • Electrocardiogram (ECG): A recording of the electrical activity of the heart is known as electrocardiogram. It records and prints electrical signals as they travel through your heart on a paper. The test can show evidence of a previous heart attack, one that's in progress and many other cardiac problems. If the diagnosis is not clear, a Holter monitoring may be done. In this test, you will be made to wear a portable monitor for 24 hours as you carry on with your normal activities and the electrical signals of the heart will be recorded. It can show abnormalities that may indicate inadequate blood flow to your heart.
  • Echocardiogram: This is a painless and non-invasive test that uses sound waves to produce images of your heart. It uses high-frequency sound waves that cannot be heard by human ears to obtain information of the structures inside your heart. An echocardiogram can help you to doctor to determine if all the parts of the heart wall are functioning well and contributing to your heart's pumping activity. It can show parts that move weakly (damaged by heart attack or decrease in blood supply and oxygen).
  • Stress test: You may be advised to undergo stress test if your signs and symptoms become evident most often during exercise or physical straining. During this test, you will be made to walk on a treadmill or ride a stationary bike during an ECG. Some people may be given medication to stimulate the heart instead of exercise. Your doctor may do an echocardiogram as well before and after stress test to assess the function of your heart.
  • Coronary catheterization: This test can show the blood flow through your heart. In cardiac or coronary catheterization, a dye is injected into the arteries of the heart through a long, thin, flexible tube (catheter) that is inserted through an artery, usually in the leg.The dye highlights the blood vessels (and blood flow) of the heart and can show narrow spots and blockages on the X-ray images. If the coronary artery (artery of the heart) is blocked significantly, a balloon can be pushed through the catheter and inflated to open the artery and improve the blood flow in your coronary arteries. After this, if needed, a mesh tube (stent) may be inserted to keep the dilated artery open.

These are some tests that may be done if you have symptoms suggestive of coronary artery disease. Other tests that may be done include electron beam computerised tomography (EBCT) or a CT coronary angiogram, Magnetic resonance angiogram (MRA) etc. Your doctor will recommend the tests that are needed.


Image source: Getty



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