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How is a heart attack treated?

When emergency professionals arrive on the scene of a heart attack, they assess the patient and usually hook the patient up to a machine to get an ECG reading (a reading that shows what the heart is doing). They notify the hospital of the patient’s condition and that they are on their way so the hospital can be ready to treat the patient immediately. Emergency personnel may give oxygen, aspirin, nitroglycerin, morphine, heparin, or other drugs based on the patient’s condition. They manage the patient’s blood pressure and insert IVs so that when the patient arrives at the hospital, they can be immediately treated. The top priority is to clear the artery as soon as possible so blood can begin to flow again.

At the hospital, patients usually go directly to the “cath lab,” where a cardiologist goes into the heart through a vein in the arm or leg with a catheter to find the blockage. This usually involves inserting a small “balloon” which is blown up in the artery to clear the blockage. Then a stent (something that keeps the artery open) is placed to keep the blood flow going. If multiple blockages are found or the stent doesn’t work, open heart or “bypass” surgery may be necessary.

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