Heart attacks, also known as Myocardial Infarction (MI), are caused by a blood clot that blocks one of the coronary arteries. The coronary arteries bring blood and oxygen to the heart. If the blood flow is blocked, the heart starves for oxygen and heart cells die.
Chest pain is a major symptom of heart attack. You may feel the pain in only one part of your body, or it may move from your chest to your arms, shoulder, neck, teeth, jaw, belly area, or back.
The pain can be severe or mild. It can feel like:
- A tight band around the chest
- Bad indigestion
- Something heavy sitting on your chest
- Squeezing or heavy pressure
Other symptoms of a heart attack may include:
- Light-headedness, dizziness
- Nausea or vomiting
- Palpitations (feeling like your heart is beating too fast)
- Shortness of breath
- Sweating , which may be extreme
Some people (the elderly, people with diabetes and women) may have little or no chest pain. Or, they may experience unusual symptoms (shortness of breath, fatigue or weakness).
A heart attack is a medical emergency. If you have symptoms of a heart attack, seek immediate medical help. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. DO NOT try to drive yourself to the hospital. DO NOT DELAY, because you are at greatest risk of sudden cardiac death in the early hours of a heart attack.
If you had a heart attack, you will need to stay in the hospital, possibly in the intensive care unit (ICU). You will be hooked up to an ECG machine, so the health care team can evaluate how your heart is beating.
Life-threatening irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias) are the leading cause of death in the first few hours of a heart attack. These arrythmias may be often treated with medications or electrical cardioverson/defibrillation.
The health care team may give you oxygen, even if your blood oxygen levels are normal. This is done so that your body tissues have easy access to oxygen and your heart doesn't have to work as hard.
An intravenous line (IV) may be placed into one of your veins. Medicines and fluids pass through this IV. You may need a tube inserted into your bladder (urinary catheter) so that doctors can track much fluid your body removes.
ANGIOPLASTY AND STENT PLACEMENT
Angioplasty, also called percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), is often the preferred emergency procedure for opening the arteries for some types of heart attacks. It should preferably be performed within 90 minutes of arriving at the hospital and no later than 12 hours after a heart attack.
Angioplasty is a procedure to open narrowed or blocked blood vessels that supply blood to the heart.
A coronary artery stent is a small, metal mesh tube that expands inside a coronary artery. A stent is often placed after angioplasty. It helps prevent the artery from closing up again.
THROMBOLYTIC THERAPY (CLOT-BUSTING DRUGS)
Depending on the results of the ECG, certain patients may be given drugs to break up the clot. It is best if these drugs are given within three hours of when the patient first felt the chest pain. This is called thrombolytic therapy. The medicine is first given through an IV. Blood thinners taken by mouth may be prescribed later to prevent clots from forming.
CORONARY ARTERY BYPASS SURGERY
Coronary angiography may reveal severe coronary artery disease in many vessels, or a narrowing of the left main coronary artery (the vessel supplying most of the blood to the heart). In these circumstances, the cardiologist may recommend emergency coronary artery bypass surgery (CABG ). This procedure is also called "open heart surgery." The surgeon takes either a vein or artery from another location in your body and uses it to bypass the blocked coronary artery.
At Texas Health, we have advanced diagnostics to help us understand your individual condition and plan a course of treatment.
Texas Health is committed to providing quality care to heart and vascular patients throughout North Texas and beyond. While various technologies and services are discussed here, not all of our hospitals offer every treatment and diagnostic technology highlighted. Call 1-877-THR-WELL to learn more about heart and vascular services at a Texas Health hospital near you.