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Heart Attacks Center

Heart Attack Treatment

Heart attack treatment
1. Emergency treatment
Immediate treatment for a heart attack (i.e. before paramedics or a doctor are seen by the patient) may involve some combination of aspirin, nitroglycerin, the application of an automatic external defibrillator, or CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation).  An automatic external defibrillator (AED) may need to be used.  

2. Treatment after a heart attack
Once a patient has a diagnosis, then doctors may take a number of steps to treat the patient, including the following.

Medication
Medication is prescribed by doctors to dissolve blood clots or decrease the likelihood of future blood clots, relieve pain in the chest, open arteries, lower cholesterol, relax your heart muscle by slowing the beat, and reduce blood pressure.

Lifestyle
Some people feel limited, even depressed, after a heart-attack because they feel limited in regards activities (e.g. sex, exercise, etc.).  Consulting your doctor can help you understand the lifestyle options that are open to you.  Additionally, you and your family may want to seek a support group after a heart attack to better cope.  Many people find that they can resume an enjoyable life with the advice of their doctor.  Your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes to decrease the likelihood of a future heart attack.  These may include:

  • blood pressure reduction caused by stress or excessive salt intake
  • eating a balanced diet low in fatty foods and cholesterol
  • exercise
  • moderate consumption of alcohol
  • quitting smoking

Surgery
Ultimately, the goal of any surgery for a heart attack  is to increase healthy blood flow to the heart.  After emergency treatment by a doctor has been provided, your doctor may prescribe medication that will either thin the blood, reduce the strain on the heart (e.g. beta blockers), and lower your cholesterol.  

Atherectomy - After a catheter is passed through an artery to the heart, a device cuts away plaque in the blocked artery

Coronary angioplasty and stenting- A catheter (a thin tube) is passed through an artery to the heart, where a balloon is inflated to open a blocked artery.  Or, a laser will remove plaque build-up.  A stent will then keep the artery open in the future; this stent may be coated with medication to allow the artery to remain open.  

Coronary artery bypass surgery - Veins or arteries are sewn beyond the damaged (blocked or partially blocked) artery, allowing blood to flow to the heart.  

Heart transplant - Used to replace an extremely damaged heart with a healthy heart from an organ donation. 

Transmyocardial revascularization (TMR) - Surgery is performed to expose the heart, which then has a series of holes made by a laser into the pumping chamber of the heart.  

Scar tissue replaces healthy muscle tissue after a heart attack.  Therefore, even if a person survives a heart attack, scar tissue can cause future health problems such as arrhythmia (an irregular heartbeat) and can decrease the pumping effectiveness of the heart itself.  Be sure to check in with your doctor or cardiologist frequently in order to monitor the success of your recovery and to prevent future problems.

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