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Heart Attack Diagnosis and Treatment

How Is a Heart Attack Diagnosed?

When you are in our care, you have the full team at Banner Health with you. Finding out what's wrong and quickly treating the cause of your heart attack symptoms is our focus so that damage to your heart is minimal. We'll also make sure to provide treatment and rehabilitation so you can resume your life as quickly as possible.

During your regular physical exams, your doctor should be screening you for risk factors that can lead to a heart attack

If you’re experiencing a heart attack in an emergency setting, the emergency care team at Banner Health will ask about your symptoms in order to begin a diagnosis. We offer the latest technology in heart imaging and diagnostic testing to find out what is causing your or your loved one's symptoms. A heart attack diagnosis is based on the symptoms you experienced and your test results. Banner Health offers the following tests to help treat patients quickly in order to limit heart muscle damage:


The electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) can tell how much damage has occurred to your heart muscle and where it has occurred. The EKG can also monitor your heart rate and rhythm

Chest X-Ray

X-ray images of your chest allow your doctor to check the size of your heart and blood vessels to look for fluid in your lungs.

Cardiac CT or MRI

A cardiac CT or an MRI can be used to diagnose heart problems, including the extent of the damage caused by a heart attack. A cardiac CT is taken by lying on a table inside a donut-shaped machine. The x-ray tube inside the machine rotates around the patient’s body and collects images of your heart and chest.

A cardiac MRI requires the patient to lie on a table inside a long machine that produces a magnetic field. This magnetic field aligns atomic particles in some of your cells. When the machine broadcasts it’s radio waves towards the aligned particles, they produce signals that vary depending on the type of tissue they are. These signals then create an image of your heart.

Exercise Stress Test

After a heart attack, you may also receive a stress test to measure how your heart and blood vessels respond to exertion. In the days or weeks after your heart attack, your doctor may have you pedal a stationary bike or walk on a treadmill while attached to an EKG machine. Your doctor may also give you an intravenous drug that stimulates your heart similarly to how exercise does. You may also receive a nuclear stress test. This test is similar to an exercise stress test but uses an injected dye and imaging techniques to produce detailed images of your heart while exerting yourself.

How is a Heart Attack Treated?

Our nationally acclaimed cardiac team is dedicated to giving you and your loved ones prompt and accurate treatment. It’s what we do. Heart attack treatment is imperative as heart tissue deteriorates or dies each minute. Restoring blood flow to the heart helps prevent further heart damage.

Surgical Procedures

In severe cases, your doctor may recommend one of the following procedures to treat your heart attack including:

Coronary Angioplasty and Stenting

A catheter with a balloon on the end is used to pass through the blocked artery and open the blockage. A stent may be inserted to keep the artery open long term to restore blood flow.

Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery

Doctors create a bypass to allow blood to flow past the blocked part of the artery.


Your doctor may recommend certain medications after a heart attack including:

  • Aspirin
  • Thrombolytics
  • Beta-blockers
  • Antiplatelet agents
  • Blood thinners
  • Nitroglycerin
  • Pain relievers
  • Statins
  • ACE inhibitors

Cardiac Rehabilitation

Banner Health offers cardiac rehabilitation programs and treatment plans that patients can start while in the hospital and continue at home. These rehabilitation programs focus on lifestyle changes, medications, and a return to your normal activities. Cardiac rehabilitation programs are critical for those who have suffered a heart attack. People who attend cardiac rehab generally live longer and are less likely to have another heart attack or experience heart attack complications.

Learn more about our rehabilitation services