By: on In Highlights

How are heart attacks treated?

When a person has a heart attack, the most important thing is to get them to a hospital as soon as possible. The faster a patient is able to receive treatment the better their odds of survival. At the first signs of a heart attack it is recommended that you call 911 or, if possible, have someone bring you to the emergency room immediately.

Prompt medical attention can get you out of immediate danger, and help limit the damage done to your heart.

When the heart is deprived of oxygen, portions of the muscle begin to die. Tissue death is irreversible, and those affected areas turn into scar tissue. These areas of scar tissue are weaker than they were and will never function as well as they should. A weakened heart increases the risk of having another heart attack. For this reason, it is vital that a person receive treatment as soon as possible not only to save their life in the immediate, but to preserve their health for the future.

Treatment for heart attacks can vary based on several factors.

Treatment methods may differ depending on severity or health history, to name a few. Due to the time sensitive nature of a heart attack, initial treatment may begin before a patient reaches the hospital, oftentimes prior to receiving an official diagnosis.

Oxygen therapy is often used as an initial treatment both for suspected heart attacks and for diagnosed heart attacks. Oxygen therapy is used to reduce the strain on the heart and to increase the amount of oxygen in the blood. Oxygen therapy may alleviate some discomfort, such as shortness of breath. In addition to oxygen therapy, a person having a heart attack may be given Aspirin in order to thin the blood and thereby prevent the formation of additional blood clots. Nitroglycerin is also commonly administered to improve blood flow and reduce the strain on your heart.

A nonsurgical procedure called Percutaneous Coronary Intervention is sometimes performed in order to open arteries that have become blocked or narrowed. This procedure, also known as a coronary angioplasty, is performed by inserting a narrow, flexible tube through a blood vessel to the blocked artery. At the end of the tube is a balloon, or other inflatable device. Once the tube has been fully led though the blood vessel, the balloon is inflated. This inflation helps to restore blood flow through the artery by compressing the plaque on the arterial walls.

While Aspirin is helpful in the prevention of new blood clots forming, it is vital that the blood clot blocking the artery be removed in order to restore the flow of blood to and from the heart. For this purpose, patients are often given Thrombolytic medicines that work to dissolve the clot. Like most aspects of a heart attack, this treatment is time sensitive and must be administered as soon as possible. While the best case scenario would be for the patient to receive this medication immediately, it is still effective even when administered hours after the onset of a heart attack. Anticoagulants and anticlotting medicines are often used both to prevent existing clots from getting worse, and to prevent the additional clots from forming.