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Heart Attacks and Heart Disease

(continued)

What Is the Treatment for a Heart Attack? continued...

What Drugs Are Used to Treat a Heart Attack?

The goals of drug therapy are to break up or prevent blood clots, prevent platelets from gathering and sticking to the plaque, stabilize the plaque, and prevent further ischemia.

These medications must be given as soon as possible (within one to two hours from the start of your heart attack) to decrease the amount of heart damage. The longer the delay in starting these drugs, the more damage can occur and the less benefit they can provide.

Drugs used during a heart attack may include:

  • Aspirin to prevent blood clotting that may worsen the heart attack
  • Other antiplatelets, such as Brilinta, Effient, or Plavix, to prevent blood clotting
  • Thrombolytic therapy ("clot busters") to dissolve any blood clots in the heart's arteries
  • Any combination of the above

Other drugs, given during or after a heart attack, lessen your heart's work, improve the functioning of the heart, widen or dilate your blood vessels, decrease your pain, and guard against any life-threatening heart rhythms.

Are There Other Treatment Options for a Heart Attack?

During or shortly after a heart attack, you may go to the cardiac cath lab for direct evaluation of the status of your heart, arteries, and the amount of heart damage. In some cases, procedures (such as angioplasty or stents) are used to open up your narrowed or blocked arteries. 

If necessary, bypass surgery may be performed in the days following the heart attack to restore the heart muscle's supply of blood.

Treatments (medications, open heart surgery, and interventional procedures, like angioplasty) do not cure coronary artery disease. Having had a heart attack or treatment does not mean you will never have another heart attack; it can happen again. But, there are several steps you can take to prevent further attacks.

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