- A Visual Guide to Heart Disease
- Medical Illustrations of the Heart Image Collection
- Take the Heart Disease Quiz!
- Patient Comments: Heart Attack Pathology - Signs and Symptoms
- Patient Comments: Heart Attack Pathology - How Many?
- What is a Heart Attack?
- What are the structures and functions of a normal coronary artery?
- What happens to the coronary artery in atherosclerosis?
- Who gets coronary artery plaques and what happens to the plaques?
- What happens to the heart muscle after a person survives a Heart Attack?
- Can a person have more than one heart attack?
What happens to the heart muscle after a person survives a Heart Attack?
According to medical studies, 50% to 75% of people survive their first heart attack Others die during the heart attack because the decreased coronary blood flow causes a severe abnormal heart rhythm or extensive death of heart muscle. Figure 4 shows the heart of a patient who died 5 days after a heart attack. The photos show his myocardial infarction as it appears on the surface of the left ventricle and when the heart is sliced to view the muscle wall. About 90% of myocardial infarctions involve only the left ventricle (LV), which pumps oxygen-rich blood that comes from the lungs to the entire body. The other 10% also involve the right ventricle (RV), which pumps the blood to the lungs.
Figure 4: Myocardial Infarction Caused by Heart Attack; Views of Heart Surface and Slice Across Heart
If a person survives a heart attack, the heart muscle may return to normal or become a region of dead heart muscle (the myocardial infarction). The amount and health of the remaining heart muscle is the major determinant of the future quality of life and longevity for a patient after a heart attack. A heart attack can interrupt the normal electrical wiring of the heart, leading to abnormal heart rhythms. The heart attack can also weaken the pumping action of the heart causing shortness of breath due to heart failure. Each of these complications of a heart attack can occur at any time during the recovery period as a result of dead, dying, or scarring heart muscle.