Diagnosing Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) involves several steps, including a review of medical history, physical examination, and a variety of diagnostic tests that assess the heart’s function and the condition of the coronary arteries. Here’s how CAD is typically diagnosed:

  1. Medical History and Physical Exam: The doctor will ask about any symptoms, risk factors (like family history of heart disease, smoking, diet, and exercise), and previous health conditions. During the physical exam, the doctor might check for signs of heart disease, such as abnormal heart sounds, pulse, or blood pressure.
  2. Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG): This test records the electrical activity of the heart and can detect irregular rhythms (arrhythmias), areas of damage, and areas of the heart that are deprived of oxygen.
  3. Stress Test (Exercise ECG): This test involves monitoring the heart’s activity while the patient is walking on a treadmill or pedaling a stationary bike. The test can show if blood flow is reduced to the heart muscle during physical activity.
  4. Echocardiogram: This is an ultrasound of the heart that provides detailed images of the heart’s structure and function. It can help identify areas of poor blood flow and areas of the heart that are not contracting properly.
  5. Blood Tests: Certain blood tests can detect levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, and other substances in the blood that are risk factors for CAD. Blood tests can also detect markers of inflammation and, after a heart attack, specific enzymes that are released when heart muscle is damaged.
  6. Coronary Angiography: This is a more invasive test that involves threading a catheter through a blood vessel to the heart and injecting a contrast dye visible by X-ray. This provides a detailed view of the inside of the arteries to show blockages.
  7. Coronary Computed Tomography Angiography (CCTA): This is a non-invasive imaging test that uses CT technology to visualize the coronary arteries. It can detect plaque buildup and blockages in the arteries.
  8. Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA): Similar to a CCTA, an MRA uses magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to produce detailed images of the heart and its blood vessels.

These diagnostic tools help in evaluating the extent of the disease and guiding treatment options. The choice of diagnostic test often depends on the individual’s symptoms, risk factors, and overall health condition.

Last Update: June 2, 2024