Heart Attack Treatment - Types of Treatment

What kinds of treatment, procedures, surgeries, or medications have you received after experiencing a heart attack?

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How is a heart attack treated?

Treatment of heart attacks includes:

  • Antiplatelet medications to prevent formation of blood clots in the arteries
  • Anticoagulant medications to prevent growth of blood clots in the arteries
  • Coronary angiography with either percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA) with or without stenting to open blocked coronary arteries
  • Clot-dissolving medications to open blocked arteries
  • Supplemental oxygen to increase the supply of oxygen to the heart's muscle
  • Medications to decrease the need for oxygen by the heart's muscle
  • Medications to prevent abnormal heart rhythms
  • Cardiac surgery

The primary goal of treatment is to quickly open the blocked artery and restore blood flow to the heart muscle, a process called reperfusion. Once the artery is open, damage to heart muscle ceases, and pain improves. By minimizing the extent of heart muscle damage, early reperfusion preserves the pumping function of the heart. Optimal benefit is obtained if reperfusion can be established within the first 4 to 6 hours of a heart attack. Delay in establishing reperfusion can result in more widespread damage to heart muscle and a greater reduction in the ability of the heart to pump blood. Patients with hearts that are unable to pump sufficient blood develop heart failure, decreased ability to exercise, and abnormal heart rhythms. Thus, the amount of healthy heart muscle remaining after a heart attack is the most important determinant of the future quality of life and longevity.

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