A heart attack, or myocardial infarction, occurs when there is a sudden blockage in a coronary artery. Because these arteries supply the heart muscle with oxygenated blood, any sudden cessation of blood flow lasting for several minutes results in heart damage and may lead to death. A heart attack generally causes unusually severe, unremitting chest pain for more than 20 minutes. In addition to severe chest pain, there are a number of other heart attack symptoms of which to be aware:
Heart attack is a true medical emergency. If you believe that you or someone else is suffering from one, call 911 immediately to be taken to the emergency room by ambulance. Once there, a team of experts will carry out specific tests to manage the patient's situation. A number of tests, including electrocardiogram (ECG), rhythm monitoring, cardiac enzyme, chest X-ray, or cardiac catheterization may be administered to better assess the situation. A number of specialists often become involved in the care of a cardiac patient - internists, cardiologists, electrophysiologists, cardiac surgeons, specialized nurses, and physician assistants. This type of collaborative team approach allows for the optimal delivery of medical care.
Heart attack treatment includes a number of therapeutic options. One such option is thrombolytic therapy, in which a medicine specifically designed to dissolve coronary artery blood clots is used. Another treatment option is percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), where specialized tubes are passed into the central arterial circulation and the heart's coronary arteries. Dye is then injected through these tubes and imaged by means of X-ray to locate the blockages. Additional treatments such as balloon dilation (PTCA) and/or stent placement may also be used at this point. Sometimes, coronary disease is so extensive that it requires open heart surgery. Following recovery from a heart attack, cardiac rehabilitative services are available.