Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Heart Disease Health Center

Font Size

Getting Aggressive With Impending Heart Attacks

WebMD Health News

June 20, 2001 -- Having chest pain? Don't ignore this important warning sign. A new approach to therapy employing new blood-thinning drugs combined with sophisticated artery-unblocking techniques can prevent a heart attack and greatly improve your chances of avoiding disability or death.

When blocked blood vessels starve the heart, a person experiences a symptom called angina. This usually feels like a dull pain, squeezing or heaviness in the chest -- often described as a clenched fist -- with discomfort usually spreading to the neck, left shoulder, and left arm (and, rarely, to the right side or back). Sometimes, people also experience intense sweating, shortness of breath, or nausea. When it happens during rest or mild exertion, doctors call it unstable angina. It warns that a heart attack, where damage occurs to the heart muscle, may be on the way.

For years, doctors were unsure of how to treat unstable angina. But now that has changed.

Using the same technology currently used to treat heart attacks, doctors are opening and repairing blocked heart arteries with tools that can reach the heart through tubes (catheters) that enter the body through an artery in the arm or leg. The procedure -- catheterization -- is spectacularly successful, preventing heart attack damage from occurring, but it has to be performed quickly. And, that isn't possible in most hospitals where the equipment and experts aren't always available when needed.

At last, doctors have a way to buy time until aggressive treatment can be provided. New drugs have become available that prevent dangerous blood clots from causing further heart damage. And now a major study of 2,220 U.S. patients - highlighted in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine -- shows that these drugs let doctors save lives when combined with early, aggressive catheterization.

"Now we think 85% of these [unstable angina] patients should be undergoing catheterization," study author Christopher P. Cannon, MD, tells WebMD. "If a patient comes in with worsening chest pain or a small heart attack, he should ask his doctor when he is going to be sent to the catheterization lab. If the answer is tomorrow, good. If the doctor says to wait and see, it is probably fair to ask, 'Well, didn't the vice president (Dick Cheney) go right on to catheterization [when he had chest pain]?'"

Today on WebMD

x-ray of human heart
A visual guide.
atrial fibrillation
Symptoms and causes.
heart rate graph
10 things to never do.
heart rate
Get the facts.
empty football helmet
red wine
eating blueberries
Simple Steps to Lower Cholesterol
Inside A Heart Attack
Omega 3 Sources
Salt Shockers
lowering blood pressure