A heart attack (also known as a myocardial infarction, or MI) happens when part of your heart muscle is damaged or dies due to a lack of blood flow to the area, which deprives it of oxygen.
The leading cause of heart attack is atherosclerosis, which occurs when fatty material (plaque) is deposited along the walls of arteries. The plaque hardens and may eventually block the arteries.
If you experience symptoms of a heart attack, call 911 right away.
Heart Attack Symptoms
The most common heart attack symptoms include the following:
- Chest tightness or chest pain, though 20% of heart attack patients have no pain — mainly those with diabetes and high blood pressure and elderly patients
- Discomfort that spreads to the shoulders, neck, jaw, arms or back
- Chest discomfort accompanied by lightheadedness, sweating, nausea or shortness of breath
Treatment for Heart Attacks at RUSH
If you experience symptoms of a heart attack, call 911 immediately. Do not try to drive yourself to the hospital. Paramedics can help begin lifesaving measures sooner and alert us to your pending arrival.
There are two main treatments heart specialists at RUSH provide once a heart attack diagnosis is confirmed:
- Clot-busting drugs can actually stop heart attacks in progress, limit damage and save lives. But they must be administered shortly after symptoms begin to work well.
- Angioplasty, usually with stenting (also called percutaneous coronary intervention or PCI), is a minimally invasive procedure in which the doctor uses a catheter to thread a balloon-like device through the groin to the blocked artery. Once in place, the balloon is inflated to restore blood flow to the heart. Usually, a small wire mesh tube (stent) is placed inside the artery to keep it propped open.
Other therapies for heart attack are often available through clinical trials, such as stem cell therapy. Your cardiologist will discuss your options and see if you are eligible for a trial.
If you have recently suffered a heart attack or undergone bypass surgery, RUSH's cardiac rehabilitation services' therapeutic outpatient program can help you lead a healthier, more active life again.
RUSH Excellence in Heart Attack Care
- Among the best in the U.S.: U.S. News & World Report ranked RUSH University Medical Center among the best in the nation for cardiology.
- Rapid treatment: RUSH University Medical center's median "door-to-balloon" time — the time between when a person having a heart attack enters the hospital and receives the recommended emergency treatment of an angioplasty — is 60 minutes. This is significantly shorter than the standard U.S. goal of 90 minutes.
- Esteemed accreditation: RUSH University Medical Center has received Mission: Lifeline STEMI Accreditation, provided through a partnership between the American Heart Association and the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care. To earn this accreditation, hospitals must meet standards for prompt, appropriate heart attack treatment, including lifesaving procedures such as percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) on a 24/7 basis. We are one of only two hospitals in Chicago to receive this accreditation.
- Cardiac rehab, close to home: Through RUSH's cardiac rehabilitation services' therapeutic outpatient program, we will create a personalized course of treatments and services to help you get back on track after a heart attack or bypass surgery. Located at RUSH Oak Park Hospital and RUSH Copley Medical Center, the program provides education, counseling to address emotional barriers, exercise plans to build strength and endurance, and support needed to make any lifestyle changes to prevent future cardiovascular issues.