Chest pain is a warning sign of a heart attack. That means your life may depend on getting the right kind of medical care fast. Fortunately, residents of Arlington and the surrounding area have a Cycle III Chest Pain Center nearby, at Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital.
The Chest Pain Center isn't a building or even a department. It's an accreditation awarded to approximately 300 U.S. hospitals by the Society of Chest Pain Centers. Texas Health Arlington Memorial is the first hospital in Texas and one of a handful in the world to be named a Cycle III Chest Pain Center — the highest accreditation possible for treatment of chest pain — by the Society of Chest Pain Centers.
Texas Health Arlington Memorial has met the society's strict requirements for everything from treatment facility design to specialized training of emergency personnel to timely diagnosis and treatment, including angioplasty.
Knowing Warning Signs
Advanced facilities, technology and procedures only have value if the patient gets to them in time. That's why it's so important to recognize the warning signs of heart attack:
- Chest discomfort: Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
- Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Shortness of breath may occur with or without chest discomfort.
- Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
For both men and women, the most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. Women, however, are more likely than men to experience shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, back or jaw pain, fatigue or palpitations.
Time is of the Essence
If heart attack is treated promptly at its earliest stages, the outcome is positive. Angioplasty, clot-busting drugs and other treatments work best if they are administered within 30 to 90 minutes of the start of symptoms. The sure way to get the help you need fast is to call 911. If you're uncertain about whether your symptoms are warning signs of heart attack or not, call anyway. Don't wait more than five minutes. Every second you wait delays treatment.
Never attempt to drive yourself to the hospital in a cardiac emergency. The professionals dispatched by 911 are trained to start care even before you reach the medical facility. In fact, paramedics can transmit your electrocardiogram data to the hospital while the ambulance is in route.
Treatment continues at the emergency department. Point-of-care bedside cardiac markers help the doctor assess your condition and determine whether you're having a heart attack within 15 minutes. Rapid diagnosis in the emergency department, paired with the on-call cardiac cath lab team, is important.
Several recent instances have demonstrated the hospital's ability to delivery extremely prompt treatment. In one case, the entire time elapsed from the patient's arrival to the angioplasty procedure was 29 minutes, well under the American College of Cardiology's benchmark of under 90 minutes.
Angioplasty, a minimally invasive treatment option
Accreditation as a Cycle III Chest Pain Center means Texas Health Arlington Memorial meets or exceeds the Chest Pain Society's standards for performing angioplasty, also known as percutaneous intervention (PCI). The procedure involves threading a catheter into a blocked artery, clearing the blockage and propping the artery open with a stent.
One of the major advantages of angioplasty over open heart surgery is the tiny incision, making recovery faster and less painful.