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What is a heart attack?

People having a heart attack often notice:

Pain, pressure, or discomfort in the chest

Pain, tingling, or discomfort in other parts of the upper body, including the arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach

Shortness of breath

Nausea, vomiting, burping, or heartburn

Sweating or cold, clammy skin

A racing or uneven heartbeat

Feeling dizzy or lightheaded

If you think you might be having a heart attack, call 1-1-9 right away. Do not try to get to the hospital on your own.

Is there a test for heart attacks?

Yes. If your doctor thinks you are having a heart attack, he or she might order one or more of these tests:

An electrocardiogram (ECG) – This test measures the electrical activity in your heart.

Blood tests – During a heart attack, the heart releases certain chemicals. If these chemicals are in your blood, it might mean you are having a heart attack.

Echocardiogram – This test uses sound waves to create an image of your heart as it beats. In a heart attack, not all parts or the heart pump normally.

Cardiac catheterization (also called "cardiac cath") – During this test, the doctor puts a thin tube into a blood vessel in your leg or arm. Then he or she moves the tube up to your heart. Next, the doctor puts a dye that shows up on X-ray into the tube. This part of the test is called "coronary angiography." It can show whether any of the arteries in your heart are clogged.

How is a heart attack treated?

If you go to the hospital while you are having a heart attack, the doctors and nurses will do a few things:

They might give you oxygen through a mask or a tube in your nose.

They will give you pain medicines to ease the chest pain and discomfort of a heart attack. They might also give you something to help you relax.

They will give you medicines to help keep more blood clots from forming.

They might give you a medicine called a beta blocker to reduce your heart's need for oxygen. This medicine can help reduce the damage caused by a heart attack.

They will try to get blood flowing again through the clogged artery. Doctors can do this in 1 of 2 ways:

They can give you medicines through a thin tube that goes into a vein, called an "IV," to break up clots. These have been called "clot busters."

They can do a procedure called "stenting" combination with cardiac catheterization. This involves putting a tiny metal tube called a "stent" into the blocked artery to hold it open.

If you cannot get a stent, or if the stent does not work, your doctor might suggest open heart surgery. This is also called "coronary artery bypass grafting" or "bypass surgery". During this surgery, doctors create a new path – a detour – for blood to get around the clogged portion of the artery. They do this using a combination of your own arteries and veins.

ReferenceThis topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Mar 12, 2020.

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