Chest pain is a vague symptom that can have benign or serious underlying causes. There are several tests used to help detect the reason for chest pain and determine if the reason is cardiac in nature.


One of the first tests used for chest pain is an electrocardiogram (ECG) because it is non-invasive and fast. During the test, electrodes are placed on different areas of the chest, which are used to detect electrical activity of the heart. The activity can be viewed on a screen and is printed out on paper for health professionals to view. Abnormalities in electrical activity can be diagnosed based on the print-out. Any abnormalities detected might be consistent with arrhythmias, heart attack, or angina. Sometimes, if the print-out is normal, your doctor may want further testing or choose to do the ECG again if your symptoms come and go. Doing an ECG during active chest pain might be more revealing.


An echocardiogram allows medical professionals to see a picture of the heart and watch it during normal activity by using ultrasound. An echocardiogram might reveal abnormalities regarding the anatomy of the heart, such as whether the entire heart is enlarged or there is thickening in certain areas of the heart. The images also include the function of the valves inside the heart and whether they are working correctly as the heart pumps. Sometimes, valves may be abnormal and make it difficult for blood to flow through the valve, or the valve may not close fully and blood flows backwards. Other issues that can be detected with an echocardiogram are masses that may grow inside the heart.


An angiogram is useful in detecting blockages or other blood vessel abnormalities that might be responsible for chest pain. A contrast dye is injected into a major blood vessel in the groin, and real-time images are taken as the dye moves throughout the body. The dye essentially illuminates the blood vessels so that they show up on the images. Some problems that could be detected include stenosis (narrowing) of a blood vessel or a blockage. Additionally, abnormal clusters of blood vessels could also be found with an angiogram. This information may reveal that the heart is not getting enough blood due to coronary artery disease.

Chest pain is a common complaint and can be caused by anxiety or be a symptom of problems with the organs inside the chest. There are several tests that are used to detect cardiac problems that may be the cause of chest pain. Reach out to an organization like Alpert Zales & Castro Pediatric Cardiology to learn more.