Myocardial Infarction

What is a Myocardial Infarction?

Myocardial infarction is the official medical term for what is colloquially known as a heart attack.

When a blockage develops in one of the two branches of the coronary artery that supplies the heart with oxygen-rich blood, part of the heart’s tissue dies of oxygen starvation. The process takes a few hours, so seeking treatment for a heart attack immediately can give the doctors a chance to restore blood flow and limit the damage to the heart.

Causes

  • Coronary heart disease
  • Atherosclerorsis
  • Clotting disorders
  • Use of illegal drugs like cocaine
  • Sudden exposure to very cold temperatures
  • Smoking

What are the Symptoms of a Myocardial Infarction?

The very first signs of a heart attack are the most important ones. If you notice chest pain that only lasts for a few minutes at a time, this is known as angina and it’s an early sign your heart’s blood flow is being blocked. About 75% of heart attacks include this kind of warning sign. Once a myocardial infarction occurs symptoms will begin.

Symptoms include

  • Chest pain and tightness, common for both men and women
  • Tightness in the jaw, neck, or shoulders
  • Nausea and vomiting, especially in women
  • Shortness of breath and resulting dizziness and lightheartedness
  • Radiating pain in either or both arms
  • Cold sweats and chills

How is a Myocardial Infarction Treated?

The faster you reach the hospital after noticing the symptoms, the greater your chances of surviving and recovering with minimal heart tissue damage.

Treatments include

Once the acute attack is addressed through the use of blockage clearing drugs and surgery, the doctor may use a stent to hold open the closed artery.

Other surgeries to prevent future heart attacks include bypasses that reroute the flow of blood, heart transplants if the heart tissue is very damaged. Lifestyle changes are also necessary to reduce the amount of stress on the heart.

Resources
Last Reviewed:
September 14, 2016
Last Updated:
August 31, 2017