Heart Attack

Early treatment for a heart attack can prevent or limit damage to the heart muscle. Acting fast, at the first symptoms of a heart attack, can save your life. Medical personnel can begin diagnosis and treatment even before you get to the hospital.

Certain treatments usually are started right away if a heart attack is suspected, even before the diagnosis is confirmed. These include:

  • Oxygen therapy
  • Aspirin to thin your blood and prevent further blood clotting
  • Nitroglycerin to reduce your heart's workload and improve blood flow through the coronary arteries
  • Treatment for chest pain

Once the diagnosis of a heart attack is confirmed or strongly suspected, doctors start treatments to try to promptly restore blood flow to the heart. The two main treatments are "clot-busting" medicines and angioplasty, a procedure used to open blocked coronary arteries.

Clot-Busting Medicines

Thrombolytic medicines, also called "clot busters," are used to dissolve blood clots that are blocking the coronary arteries. To work best, these medicines must be given within several hours of the start of heart attack symptoms. Ideally, the medicine should be given as soon as possible.

Hardening of the coronary arteries can restrict the flow of blood to the heart, which can lead to angina.

The most common symptom of angina is chest pain, which is usually triggered by physical activity. While many cases of angina can be treated with medication, a coronary angioplasty may be required to restore the blood supply to the heart in severe angina.

Coronary angioplasties are also often used as an emergency treatment after a heart attack.