Heart attacks and their treatment

What is a heart attack?

A heart attack is when the blood flow to the heart is stopped, usually by a blockage such as a blood clot, which prevents the heart from working properly.

How is a heart attack treated?

It is very important that the blood is helped to flow back into the heart as quickly as possible. This limits the permanent damage done to this vital organ. Treatments include:

  • PCI treatment
    Sometimes patients are given a treatment called PCI (also known as angioplasty) when they know there is a risk that a blockage may stop the blood flowing into the heart and cause a heart attack at some point. This is used to prevent a heart attack and involves inserting a support (stent) into the blocked artery to hold the artery open and ensures that the blood can keep flowing. This is done by inserting a balloon into the artery and then inflating it to open the artery wide before putting the support in place.

  • Primary PCI (pPCI)
    PCI can also be used after a heart attack to reopen the artery which has closed and caused the heart attack. This is called Primary PCI (PPCI) and is the gold standard emergency treatment we want everyone to be able to get. 

  • Thrombolysis
    An alternative effective emergency treatment for heart attack is called thrombolysis. It is a drug which is injected as soon as possible after the heart attack to dissolve the clot (or blockage) to the heart. This will clear the artery either partially or temporarily, allowing doctors more time to look more closely at the patient’s heart.

The key to successful results in treating heart attack is short times to treatment. The longer it takes to get treatment, the more damage occurs to the heart muscle.