The most important aspect of treating a heart attack is speed. The faster you act to get help and treatment, the better your chances for survival and a full recovery. If you or someone you are with is experiencing heart attack symptoms, call 911 immediately.

Goals of Emergency Treatment

Emergency personnel are trained to provide certain treatments that can help treat a heart attack, even before it is diagnosed. The goals of these treatments include:

  • stabilizing the heartbeat
  • breaking up blood clots in the arteries
  • preventing more clotting
  • easing chest pain

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs) are often used to jolt the heart’s electrical system back into a normal rhythm. Morphine, oxygen, aspirin, and nitroglycerin are typically used in the first 30 minutes following the start of heart attack symptoms to prevent more clotting and to treat pain.

Treatment After the Attack

Once you arrive at the hospital and have been diagnosed with a heart attack, the severity of your condition will determine a treatment plan. There are many different kinds of heart attack treatments, including medications, interventional procedures, and surgery.

Typically, medications are the first treatment option, and other procedures follow depending on the nature of the heart attack. The most common ways to treat a heart attack include:

Thrombolysis

This procedure is done within three hours of a heart attack. It involves injecting an agent into the blood that effectively dissolves blood clots and allows blood to flow through the coronary artery again.

Angioplasty & Stent

Angioplasty is a type of cardiac catheterization that helps open up coronary arteries to restore blood flow to the heart. More than one million people in the United States undergo the procedure each year. During an angioplasty procedure, a small tube (called a catheter) with a balloon on the tip is threaded into the arteries, usually through a vessel in the groin area or through an artery that starts in the wrist. When the balloon is expanded, it pushes plaque away, widens the artery, and allows blood flow to return to the heart. Sometimes during an angioplasty procedure, a small mesh tube called a stent is placed into the artery to support the artery walls and reduce the chance of future narrowing or blockage.

Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery or Grafting

Bypass surgery is another common and effective way to restore blood flow to the heart after a serious heart attack. During the surgery, arteries or veins from other parts of the body (called grafts) are used to create alternate routes for blood to flow around the blocked artery. The number of grafts used depends on how many arteries are blocked. For example, a triple-bypass surgery is when three grafts are used to bypass three blocked arteries.