Pin Me

Emergency Treatment Options for Heart Attacks

written by: csherwood • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 10/20/2010

A heart attack can be a scary and life threatening experience. Learn about emergency treatments for heart attacks.

  • slide 1 of 6

    Introduction

    The heart plays an integral role in pumping blood throughout the entire body, providing the many types of tissues and organs with the oxygen and nutrients they need to survive. Unfortunately, blood can be blocked from reaching the heart through blood clots or the buildup of coronary plaque. As the blood supply is lessened or completely blocked from reaching the heart, parts of the heart muscle can become damaged or start to die. This results in a heart attack, also commonly referred to as a myocardial infarction. A heart attack can quickly become deadly, with the American Heart Association estimating that 34 percent of those who experience a coronary attack will die from it. If a heart attack was to occur, it is important to take certain immediate measures to treat the attack before serious damage can be done to the heart tissue. The following are emergency treatments for heart attacks:

  • slide 2 of 6

    CPR and the Defibrillator

    One leading cause of death in relation to heart attacks is ventricular fibrillation or a change in the normal rhythm of the heart. When this occurs a defibrillator is needed to shock the heart back into its normal rhythm. If a defibrillator is not readily available, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can be used to keep oxygen and blood flowing to the heart and brain until a defibrillator can be found. The victim’s legs may also be raised 12 to 18 inches off the floor to help better facilitate blood flow to the heart.

  • slide 3 of 6

    Oxygen

    With the first signs of a heart attack, oxygen may also be used for treatment. Oxygen is administered by placing an oxygen mask over the face. This helps by adding additional oxygen to the blood can to help increase the amount reaching the heart and brain to help stave off tissue damage.

  • slide 4 of 6

    Medications

    Several medications may be administered during the first few hours of a heart attack. For example, thrombolytic clot busting medications may be used to break up blockages that are preventing blood from reaching the heart. Blood thinners may also be used, such as aspirin or heparin, to help prevent new clots from forming. Other common medications used to help respond to and treat heart attacks include nitroglycerin to open arterial blood vessels, beta blockers to decrease blood pressure and ACE inhibitors to reduce the strain on the heart.

  • slide 5 of 6

    Conclusion

    Once basic emergency aid has been given, your doctor may progress into more invasive treatment options depending on how serious the damage is to your cardiovascular system, such as a bypass surgery which transplants healthy arteries from other areas of the body to bypass blocked vessels, or an angioplasty which uses a balloon to inflate the affected blood vessel to open up the blockage. However, it is the first immediate actions that can help determine whether or not you will overall survive the myocardial infarction.