A heart attack occurs when one or more regions of the heart muscle experience a severe or prolonged lack of oxygen caused by blocked blood flow in one of the heart blood vessels, damaging or killing heart cells.
Heart attack is also known as myocardial infarction (MI), acute myocardial infarction (AMI), ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI), non-STEMI, acute coronary syndrome, acute coronary and coronary attack. According to the American Heart Association, Americans have more than 1.2 million heart attacks each year.
Why Choose The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center?
The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center has been successful in reducing by half the time it takes for heart attack patients to receive specialized care, which is well below the average national time. On average, patients at Ohio State have cardiac circulation restored within 28 minutes of arrival. Emergency cardiac catheterization and surgical therapy is performed 24 hours a day.
In fact, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recognized Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center as a leader in heart attack patient survival rates. Ohio State is one of only 95 in the United States and one of only three in Ohio to achieve this level of performance. Our heart specialists follow national guidelines when treating heart attack patients to provide them with the safest, best possible outcomes.
In addition, Ohio State’s Richard M. Ross Heart Hospital is recognized as an Accredited Chest Pain Center by the Society of Chest Pain Centers (SCPC). Hospitals that have received SCPC accreditation have achieved a higher level of expertise in dealing with patients who arrive with symptoms of a heart attack. To become an Accredited Chest Pain Center, the Ross Heart Hospital engaged in rigorous evaluation by SCPC for its ability to assess, diagnose and treat patients who may be experiencing a heart attack.
What Is a Heart Attack?
If one or more regions of your heart muscle are deprived of a flow of oxygenated blood, you may have a heart attack.
The symptoms you are most likely to have include:
- Squeezing or pain or discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts for minutes, which can radiate to the shoulders, neck, arms and jaw
- Chest pain that increases in intensity or that is not relieved by rest
- Chest pain that occurs with sweating
Symptoms can be vague and nonspecific, particularly in women and people who have diabetes. Symptoms of a heart attack can be confused with gall bladder attacks, gastro-esophageal reflux, stomach ulcers, and even back or shoulder muscle pain and cramps.
Additional symptoms you may have include indigestion, nausea or vomiting; unexplained weakness or fatigue; cool, clammy skin; paleness; shortness of breath; dizziness; and a rapid or irregular pulse. If you experience any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately.
What Causes a Heart Attack?
The blockage that causes a heart attack is often a result of atherosclerosis, a buildup of plaque (fatty substances, cholesterol, calcium and fibrin in the inner lining of an artery).
Risk factors for heart attack include hypertension (high blood pressure), low levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDL) and high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) blood cholesterol, diabetes, family history of heart disease, increased age, cigarette smoking or tobacco use, stress, sedentary lifestyle, excess weight, and a diet high in saturated fat and cholesterol.
Tests used to determine if you have had a heart attack and the extent of damage to your heart include:
Blood tests – Studies to detect enzymes that leak into the blood when the heart has been damaged by a heart attack.
Cardiac catheterization – A procedure to check for problems in coronary arteries. A long, thin tube (catheter) is inserted in an artery in the groin or arm, then advanced to the heart. The physician injects a contrast solution into the artery and takes X-rays to check for blockages. If blockages are found, they can be opened by balloon angioplasty or stent placement.
Chest X-ray – A radiograph or picture of the heart and lungs including blood vessels, ribs and bones of the spine.
CT scan (computed tomography scan, also called CAT scan) – An imaging procedure that uses X-rays and computer technology to produce detailed images of the body, including bones, muscles, fat and organs. Special CT scans can detect blockages in the coronary arteries and, in some cases, eliminate the need for catheterization and other invasive procedures.
Echocardiogram (also called echo) – A test that uses sound waves to produce a picture to determine the function and structure of the heart. Pictures of the heart can show damage to the heart muscle from areas of impaired blood flow, muscle that is already damaged and some of the consequences of heart attacks, such as leaking valves.
Electrocardiogram (EKG/ECG) – A test that records the electrical activity of the heart. Heart attacks can cause abnormalities in the electric patterns that are recorded and can be used to guide therapies.
Exercise stress test – A test performed on a treadmill or stationary bicycle that monitors heart rhythm and blood pressure to determine how well the heart works during physical activity. Impairment of heart muscle function during exercise from inadequate blood flow can be detected.
Cardiac MRI (cardiac magnetic resonance imaging or CMR) – A noninvasive, sophisticated imaging procedure that uses large magnets and a computer to produce detailed images of the structure and function of the heart while it is beating.
Nuclear stress test – A scan that measures the blood flow to the heart muscle during rest and during activity or stress to determine if areas of the heart muscle have low blood flow or are damaged.
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