Heart Attack

Frequently Asked Questions

10. How is a heart attack treated?

Certain treatments usually are started right away if a heart attack is suspected, even before diagnosis is confirmed. Those treatments can include

  • aspirin to prevent further blood clotting
  • nitroglycerin to reduce your heart’s workload and improve blood flow through the coronary arteries
  • oxygen therapy
  • treatment for chest pain.

Once the diagnosis of a heart attack is confirmed or strongly suspected, doctors start treatments promptly to try to restore blood flow through the blood vessels supplying the heart. The two main treatments are

  • thrombolytic (clot-busting) medicines and
  • percutaneous coronary intervention.

Thrombolytic medicines, also called clot busters, are used to dissolve blood clots that are blocking the coronary arteries. To work best, these medicines must be given within several hours of the start of heart attack symptoms.

Percutaneous coronary intervention, also known as coronary angioplasty, is a nonsurgical procedure that opens blocked or narrowed coronary arteries.

Other treatments for a heart attack include medicines and medical procedures.