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    Understanding Heart Attack: Diagnosis and Treatment

    What Are the Treatments for Heart Attack? continued...

    An easy-to-use device called an AED (automated external defibrillator) is now available in many public places and can be used by almost anyone to treat cardiac arrest. This device works by shocking the heart back into a normal rhythm.

    Treatment often begins in the ambulance if you called 911, or in the emergency room if someone else took you to the hospital. The first treatment given to a person suspected of having a heart attack is an aspirin. If you have called emergency services and are waiting for them to arrive, chew an aspirin (325 mg). Aspirin is a potent inhibitor of blood clots and can decrease the risk of death from the heart attack by 25%.

    Heart Attack Treatment in the Hospital

    At the emergency facility or hospital, a heart attack victim is rapidly given other drugs to prevent further blood clotting in the heart and decrease the strain on the heart. Treatment may also include a procedure to open up the blocked arteries.

    • Clot-busting drugs. These are given in the ER to open up blocked arteries. These powerful drugs are used if it will take too long to get a victim to the catheterization lab and to perform angioplasty and stenting.
    • Balloon angioplasty. This treatment can be performed, if needed, during a cardiac catheterization. A balloon-tipped catheter (thin, hollow tube) is inserted into the blocked artery in the heart. The balloon is inflated gently to press plaque outward against the walls of the artery, to open up the artery and improve blood flow. Most of the time this is not done without putting in a stent.
    • Stent placement. In this procedure, a small tube is inserted through a catheter into a blocked artery to "prop" it open. The stent is usually made of metal and is permanent. It can also be made of a material that the body absorbs over time. Some stents have medicine that helps keep the artery from getting blocked again. The stenting procedure is often performed along with balloon angioplasty to help keep the artery open.
    • Bypass surgery. This surgical procedure allows a surgeon to re-route blood flow around a blocked artery to re-establish blood flow to part of the heart. A blood vessel from the person's leg or chest is usually used to bypass the blocked artery. Bypass surgery is typically done later, not as part of the emergency care of a heart attack. One, two, or more arteries can be bypassed.

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