How Is A Heart Attack Treated
Quick treatment to get the blood flowing to your heart muscle again is important. This can reduce the amount of permanent damage to your heart and save your life.
Many people need to have emergency treatment to restore the blood flow:
- Coronary angioplasty re-opens the blocked coronary artery by inserting one or more stents. This helps keep the narrowed artery open.
- Thrombolysis involves giving you clot-busting medicine to dissolve the blood clot that’s blocking the coronary artery.
- Coronary bypass surgery helps to restore normal blood flow by using a blood vessel from your leg, arm or chest in your heart to bypass the blocked artery.
You might not have these treatments if your doctor decides it’s not safe or necessary.
When You Arrive At Hospital
The doctor or nurse will carry out an electrocardiogram at the hospital. They will also give you oxygen and pain relief.
They’ll place a small plastic tube, called an IV, in one of your veins. This is so the doctors and nurses can give you fluids or medicines if you need them.
If the doctor confirms that you have had a heart attack, they will need to unblock your artery. You’ll need this done as quickly as possible.
The doctor will do an emergency angioplasty and possible stenting of the artery to open it. This will restore the blood supply to your heart.
If the doctor does not do that, you may get a drug called thrombolysis. They will inject this into a vein. This will dissolve the blood clot. It helps restore the blood supply to the heart.
Where Have All The Heart Attacks Gone
Except for treating Covid-19, many hospitals seem to be eerily quiet.
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The hospitals are eerily quiet, except for Covid-19.
I have heard this sentiment from fellow doctors across the United States and in many other countries. We are all asking: Where are all the patients with heart attacks and stroke? They are missing from our hospitals.
Yale New Haven Hospital, where I work, has almost 300 people stricken with Covid-19, and the numbers keep rising and yet we are not yet at capacity because of a marked decline in our usual types of patients. In more normal times, we never have so many empty beds.
Our hospital is usually so full that patients wait in gurneys along the walls of the emergency department for a bed to become available on the general wards or even in the intensive care unit. We send people home from the hospital as soon as possible so we can free up beds for those who are waiting. But the pandemic has caused a previously unimaginable shift in the demand for hospital services.
Some of the excess capacity is indeed by design. We canceled elective procedures, though many of those patients never needed hospitalization. We are now providing care at home through telemedicine, but those services are for stable outpatients, not for those who are acutely ill.
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Your Stay In Hospital After A Heart Attack
Once your condition is stable, you will move from the CCU to a cardiac ward. After that you will be able to go home.
At this stage, doctors will have a better idea of what caused your heart attack. You will then start receiving treatment for these conditions.
In some hospitals you will have a visit from a member of the cardiac rehabilitation team. They will discuss a cardiac rehabilitation programme with you.
Before you leave hospital you may also have an angiogram. An angiogram is a specialised x-ray.
Are The Symptoms Of Heart Attack Different For Women
The most common heart attack symptom for women is pain or discomfort in the chest. However, women are more likely to have a heart attack without having any chest pain. Therefore, women should pay close attention to other symptoms of heart attack. These include shortness of breath, sweating, fatigue, and dizziness.
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Accredited Chest Pain Centers
Many of our hospitals are also Accredited Chest Pain Centers. This designation means we meet or exceed the highest standards of care in treating heart attack patients. Specifically, these facilities:
- Integrate their emergency rooms with local emergency medical services teams
- Assess, diagnose and treat potential heart attack patients quickly
- Effectively treat patients with low risk for acute coronary syndrome
- Continually seek to improve processes and procedures
- Support community outreach and education about heart attacks
For more information about our primary care services or for help finding a doctor, call our free, 24/7 Consult-A-Nurse line.
Your Hospital Stay After A Heart Attack
A heart attack occurs when one or more blood vessels supplying the heart with blood become partly or totally blocked. The area of the heart supplied by that artery may become permanently damaged.
Once you go to hospital, your doctors will decide what treatment you need. The treatments you have will influence your recovery. For example, surgery will affect when you are able to do some activities, such as driving or lifting heavier items.
Treatment after your heart attack will usually include taking medicines regularly to lower the chance of having another heart attack and other heart problems in the future.
Other treatments you may need after your heart attack can include:
- an operation in which blood vessels from other parts of your body are grafted to bypass the blocked arteries to your heart
Before leaving hospital, speak with your health professionals about how and when you can go back to doing your everyday activities.
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What Are The Complications Of A Heart Attack
Complications associated with heart attacks include:
- Arrhythmias : Management options include medication, pacemaker placement, implantable cardioverter defibrillator placement and other options.
- Heart failure: If enough heart tissue has died, your heart is now weakened and cant pump blood effectively, which can lead to heart failure.
- Heart valve problems: Depending on the area of heart damage, your heart valves may be affected. Catheter-based procedures or surgery are treatment options for heart valve problems.
- Sudden cardiac arrest: This sudden stoppage of your heart can be caused by arrhythmia.
- Depression and anxiety: Talk to your healthcare provider. Management includes medication and counseling. Joining a support group can help.
Teaching Hospitals With Cardiovascular Residency Programs
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What Are The Symptoms Of A Heart Attack
Heart attacks can have a number of symptoms, some of which are more common than others. The symptoms you have are also influenced by your sex, as with men and women being more likely to have different heart attack symptoms.
Common heart attack symptoms
Symptoms most often described by people having a heart attack:
- Chest pain . This symptom can be mild and feel like discomfort or heaviness, or it can be severe and feel like crushing pain. It may start in your chest and spread to other areas like your left arm , shoulder, neck, jaw, back or down toward your waist.
- Shortness of breath or trouble breathing.
- Nausea or stomach discomfort. Heart attacks can often be mistaken for indigestion.
- Heart palpitations.
- Feeling lightheaded, dizzy or passing out.
Heart attack symptoms in women
Medical research in recent years has shown that women may have the above symptoms, but also have a higher chance of experiencing symptoms different from those listed above.Women are less likely to describe the following:
- Chest pain, especially in the center of the chest.
- Discomfort that feels like indigestion.
Women are more likely to describe the following:
- Shortness of breath, fatigue and insomnia that started before the heart attack.
- Pain in the back, shoulders, neck, arms or abdomen.
- Nausea and vomiting.
Symptoms Of A Heart Attack
Symptoms of a heart attack can include:
- chest pain a feeling of pressure, heaviness, tightness or squeezing across your chest
- pain in other parts of the body it can feel as if the pain is spreading from your chest to your arms , jaw, neck, back and tummy
- feeling lightheaded or dizzy
- feeling sick or being sick
- an overwhelming feeling of anxiety
- coughing or wheezing
The chest pain is often severe, but some people may only experience minor pain, similar to indigestion.
While the most common symptom in both men and women is chest pain, women are more likely to have other symptoms such as shortness of breath, feeling or being sick and back or jaw pain.
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When To Go To The Er
For many people, knowing when to seek emergency care isn’t always clear. Most people know to call 911 right away when faced with a life-threatening situation, such as loss of consciousness, breathing trouble, or serious trauma. But heart attack symptoms aren’t always as clear. It may be hard to tell if theyâre from a heart crisis or heartburn, for example.
Remember, itâs always better to be safe than sorry. If you feel itâs an emergency, call 911 and ask them to send an ambulance right away.
EMS personnel can start caring for you or your loved one immediately, and theyâll alert the emergency room to let them know you are coming.
If you have these symptoms, go to the emergency room immediately:
- Discomfort that feels like pressure, fullness, or a squeezing pain in the center or left side of your chest. It lasts for more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
- Pain and discomfort that extend beyond your chest to other parts of your upper body, such as one or both arms, back, neck, stomach, and jaw
- Unexplained shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort
- Any of the symptoms above that come with a cold sweat, nausea, lightheadedness, anxiety, or indigestion
What Causes A Heart Attack
The vast majority of heart attacks occur because of a blockage in one of the blood vessels that supply your heart. This most often happens because of plaque, a sticky substance that can build up on the insides of your arteries . That buildup is called atherosclerosis.
Sometimes, plaque deposits inside the coronary arteries can break open or rupture, and a blood clot can get stuck where the rupture happened. If the clot blocks the artery, this can deprive the heart muscle of blood and cause a heart attack.
Heart attacks are possible without a blockage, but this is rare and only accounts for about 5% of all heart attacks. This kind of heart attack can occur for the following reasons:
- Spasm of the artery: Your blood vessels have a muscle lining that allows them to become wider or narrower as needed. Those muscles can sometimes twitch or spasm, cutting off blood flow to heart muscle.
- Rare medical conditions: An example of this would be any disease that causes unusual narrowing of blood vessels.
- Trauma: This includes tears or ruptures in the coronary arteries.
- Obstruction that came from elsewhere in the body: A blood clot or air bubble that gets trapped in a coronary artery.
- Electrolyte imbalances: Having too much or too little of key minerals like potassium in your blood can cause a heart attack.
- Eating disorders: Over time, an eating disorder can cause damage to your heart and ultimately result in a heart attack.
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Is Acute Coronary Syndrome The Same As A Heart Attack
Acute coronary syndrome is a life-threatening condition that requires emergency medical care and can result in a heart attack. Acute coronary syndrome is a name given to three types of coronary artery disease associated with a sudden rupture of plaque inside the coronary artery:
- ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction or heart attack .*
- Non-ST segment elevation myocardial infarction or heart attack .*
The location of the blockage, the length of time that blood flow is blocked and the amount of damage that occurs determine the type of acute coronary syndrome.*See the Electrocardiogram description in the Diagnosis & Tests section for an explanation of STEMI and non-STEMI heart attacks.
Leaving Hospital After A Heart Attack
When you leave hospital, make sure you have:
- supplies of your medicines. Make sure you also know what each one is for, and how and when to take them
- in case you have a future medical emergency
- times for appointments with outpatient clinics, specialist doctors, your doctor and other health professionals
- instructions on how to care for your wounds if you had surgery
- a referral to a cardiac rehabilitation program.
Make sure you follow your plan when you leave hospital, take your medicines as prescribed, and keep all your appointments with your health professionals.
After you leave hospital:
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Why Should I Call 911 If I Can Drive Myself To The Hospital
If you have any symptoms of a heart attack, its best to call 911 for multiple reasons:
- First responders can do some of the early testing and treatment for a heart attack on the way to the hospital. This can speed up the overall diagnosis and treatment process.
- If you come into the hospital by ambulance, you usually have more immediate access to care. When youre having a heart attack, every second matters.
- Heart attacks can cause your heart to beat irregularly or stop entirely, either of which could cause you to pass out. If youre in an ambulance when that happens, first responders can react immediately to stabilize you. You also wont have to worry about passing out behind the wheel and causing a crash that could have devastating consequences for yourself or others.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
A blocked artery needs immediate care to prevent permanent heart damage. You may think that if your symptoms are not intense and severe, youre not having a heart attack. However, its best to get your symptoms checked. Calling 911, rather than driving yourself or having someone else drive you, can be even more life-saving than you think. Time saved is heart muscle saved, and that means you have a better chance of a good outcome.
Coronary Artery Bypass Graft Surgery
A coronary artery bypass graft may be performed after a heart attack. It’s a major operation during which a blood vessel from another part of the body is grafted to link the aorta and the coronary artery, or arteries.
Possible risks associated with coronary artery bypass graft surgery include, but are not limited to:
- bleeding during or after the surgery
- blood clots that can cause heart attack, stroke, or lung problems
- infection at the incision site
- breathing problems.
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Life After A Heart Attack
After the shock of the actual heart attack and the initial recovery you may wonder what happens now?
This is the time to start rebuilding your life to start enjoying everyday activities once more and get back to doing the things you love.
Visit our Living with a Heart Condition section for more information about how to manage your condition at home, how to stay well and reduce your risk of future heart disease.
Heart Attack Treatments In Virginia
For patients experiencing a heart attack, HCA Virginia’s hospitals provide comprehensive care from experienced emergency physicians, board-certified cardiologists and cardiac surgeons. Our heart teams will also ensure your ongoing recovery by creating individualized treatment plans that cater to your unique needs.
If you suspect someone is having a heart attack, call 911 immediately.
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Dont Become A Statistic
Of course, all of these life-saving treatments are of no use if you dont respond immediately to the warning signs of heart attacks.
According to a study published in Circulation , more than half of the 1.2 million people who have a heart attack or coronary death each year in the U.S. die in an ED or before reaching a hospital within an hour of the onset of symptoms.
Speed is of the essence in stopping heart attacks. Lifesaving measures are only effective for a brief period of time after symptoms begin, before heart muscle begins to die and your heart ceases to function. Heed the advice. And just. Dont. Wait.
What Tests Will Be Done To Diagnose This Condition
Anyone with heart attack symptoms should undergo a physical examination, including checking pulse, blood oxygen levels, blood pressure, and listening to heart and lung sounds.
Other tests used to diagnose heart attack include:
- Electrocardiogram : This is one of the first tests done when someone comes to an ER with heart attack symptoms. This test uses sensors called electrodes that attach to the skin of your chest. The electrodes pick up electrical activity in the heart and show it as a wave on a display or printout. By looking at the wave, providers can see the strength and timing of the electrical signal as it travels through your heart. When the signal doesnt travel like it should, the shape of the wave changes, which can indicate a heart attack or similar problems. EKG for a heart attack is usually continuous to monitor for changes in heart activity.
STEMI and non-STEMI heart attacks
The wave of your heart’s electrical signal is divided into sections using letters of the alphabet starting at P and ending at U. One particular section of the wave, the ST segment, shows activity in the heart’s lower two chambers. Those chambers are the left ventricle and right ventricle.
- Blood tests. During a heart attack, the damage to heart muscle cells almost always causes a chemical marker to appear in your bloodstream. Blood tests that look for that marker are among the most reliable methods to diagnose a heart attack.
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