What is a blood test?
Blood tests are often an essential factor when determining the cause of your cardiac symptoms. Your physician might order blood work for a number of reasons, including a distressed heart, an increased risk of heart attack or the possibility of heart disease or heart failure. It is important to get to a hospital quickly if you are experiencing severe cardiac symptoms in order to maximize your chances of effective treatment. Blood tests are an important diagnostic tool and can be used in clinic or emergency settings.
Blood tests are simple procedures that should cause very little discomfort. If your cardiologist orders blood work, he or she might be looking for:
- BNP/NT pro-BNP (B-type Natriuretic Peptide): This test measures the level of BNP or NT pro-BNP hormone made by your heart. It can be used to assess the severity of your heart failure, or to determine how you are responding to treatment.
- Creatine Kinase (CK): This test confirms heart muscle damage. Part of the CK enzyme—CK-MB—is measured as well. The CK-MB usually increases in your blood six hours after the start of a heart attack, peaks after 18 hours and then usually returns to normal in 24 hours.
- Troponin proteins: These proteins control the actin and myosin interactions that allow the heart muscle to squeeze. Normally the troponin protein levels are low; however, with heart muscle damage, these levels increase substantially over a period of several hours.
- Basic metabolic profile: This test follows your electrolytes and kidney function. Results of these measurements can influence your physician’s decision regarding cardiac medication.
- Lipid profile: Lipids are essentially cholesterol measurements that can help to assess your cardiac risk.
These blood tests can be done quickly and with very little discomfort. The results can help your cardiologist determine the fastest and most effective treatment course for you, maximizing your chances for a positive outcome.
What to expect during a blood test
Preparing for your procedure
There is no preparation necessary for most of the above blood tests; some of them may be done in an emergency setting in response to chest discomfort or other severe cardiac symptoms.
If you experience chest pain, you should seek medical attention immediately, especially if you have shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea and/or sweating. Do not hesitate to call 911 or go to your local emergency room if you experience any of these alarming cardiac symptoms.
Prior to taking blood, a technician will sterilize your arm with an alcohol swab and place a thick elastic band around the upper arm, helping your veins fill with blood. A needle is then inserted into your vein and blood is collected in vials. Once this is complete, the needle and band are removed from your arm and a pressure bandage is applied to the area. The blood vials are immediately sent to the laboratory for testing.
During your procedure
The procedure can be slightly uncomfortable during the blood draw, but it only lasts a minute. Remain still so that the medical technician can complete your test quickly.
After your procedure
Your physician will review your blood test results and incorporate the data into his or her treatment plan.