Stop a Heart Attack in Record Time
Mercy Medical Center Emergency Chest Pain Center (ECPC), with its state-of-the-art diagnostic tools and catheterization lab, offers you fast, responsive emergency care 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Mercy’s nationally-recognized heart center team of experienced doctors, nurses and technicians meets the ambulance and the patient at the door.
Mercy was the first hospital in the nation to have a heart catheterization lab located directly in the emergency department, resulting in world-record times for heart attack treatment.
Mercy was also the first in northeast Ohio to receive a full, three-year Cycle III accreditation with PCI (percutaneous coronary interventions), or angioplasty, from the Society of Chest Pain Centers.
How the ECPC Works
The Mercy ECPC’s organized-team-approach to patient care enables physicians to reduce time-to-treatment during the critical early stages of a heart attack when treatments are most effective. It also allows for better monitoring of patients’ needs when it is not clear if they are having a heart attack. This efficient and effective analysis and treatment not only saves lives, it decreases costs, reduces unnecessary hospitalization, minimizes length of stay, prevents missed diagnosis and eliminates unnecessary treatments and procedures. It helps ensure that a patient is neither sent home too early, nor needlessly admitted.
Saving lives is a team effort, and we have the most experienced team.
The hospital’s team of physicians and staff has worked tirelessly to make the Mercy ECPC number one, second to none in the early detection and treatment of heart attacks. They’ve established standards designed to improve the consistency and quality of care provided to patients.
The ECPC separates patients into four treatment groups:
- 1. Patients who have experienced a heart attack (STEMI/non-STEMI).
- 2. Patients at high risk for a cardiac event.
- 3. Patients at low risk for a cardiac event.
- 4. Patients with symptoms that are not heart-related.
Everyone plays a role, from the fast response of paramedics to immediate evaluation and immediate response by nurses, physicians, technicians and interventional cardiologists. All are experienced professionals. And experience is critical. Every interventional cardiologist at the center has performed more than 1000 angioplasties and has been performing this procedure for more than five years.
When surgery is necessary, Mercy’s expert heart surgeons provide the best care possible, performing all aspects of cardiac and thoracic surgery. A team remains on-call throughout the patient’s hospital stay and keeps lines of communication open with family and friends.
What Is a Heart Attack?
Each year, according to the National Institutes of Health, an estimated 1.5 million Americans suffer a heart attack or myocardial infarction. For nearly a third of them, the attack is fatal. But many of those deaths could have been prevented—if only the victim had received help in time. That’s why it’s so essential for all of us to know the warning signs of a heart attack.
Warning signs of a heart attack
For all too many people, the American Heart Association (AHA) says, a heart attack is the first time they learn they have heart disease. The warning signs that you’re having a heart attack can vary, but here are some common ones:
- Uncomfortable chest pain, pressure or a squeezing sensation in the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes
- Pain that radiates to the shoulders, neck, jaw or arms
- Chest pain accompanied by dizziness, sweating, nausea or shortness of breath
Not all of these symptoms will be present in all cases. The American Academy of Family Physicians says symptoms may come and go; some people having a heart attack may experience no observable symptoms.
In addition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that women are more likely to have so-called silent or unrecognized heart attacks. That’s because women often have different signs of a heart attack than men. Women are more likely to have nausea and pain high in the abdomen. They also may experience a burning in the chest that they dismiss as indigestion or heartburn. In women as well as men, the symptoms may subside and then come back. But it’s still essential to get immediate medical help if you suspect a heart attack. AHA says clot-dissolving drugs and surgery are most effective when used in the early stages of a heart attack. But studies show that many heart attack victims wait several hours—even up to ten hours or more—before seeking help.
Why a heart attack happens
A heart attack results when blood supply to the heart is cut off or reduced. This limits the supply of oxygen to the heart, resulting in potential damage to the heart muscle. The heart’s blood supply can be cut off as a result of atherosclerosis, in which fatty deposits build up on the lining of the artery walls until a blockage occurs. (Read about “Heart Risks“) Although heart attacks can strike without warning, an attack may also be preceded by periodic spells of chest pain called angina. While the symptoms of angina may seem to mimic those of a heart attack, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) says angina is more often triggered by physical exertion, whereas a heart attack can occur at any time, even during rest. Although angina is not the same as a heart attack, it does indicate the presence of coronary artery disease and should not be ignored.
Get help fast
A heart attack is a medical emergency. Time is essential. If not treated, a heart attack can result in cardiac arrest and death. If someone is experiencing symptoms that might indicate a heart attack, call 911 or your local emergency number and let medical personnel know when the symptoms started and how severe they are. According to AHA, it can be better to let an ambulance come to you. Ambulance personnel can start emergency treatment as soon as they arrive. However, if you suspect you’re having a heart attack and ambulance service isn’t available, you can have someone drive you (someone suspecting they’re having a heart attack should not drive themselves) to the nearest emergency room.
After calling 911, AHA recommends taking aspirin as soon as possible, unless there’s a reason not to (for example if you’re allergic to aspirin or have some other condition that means you shouldn’t take aspirin). According to AHA, research shows that taking aspirin when symptoms start significantly improves the chances of surviving a heart attack.
However, taking aspirin isn’t advised during a stroke because, if the stroke is caused by a rupture instead of a blood clot, aspirin will make things worse.
The key is to remember that a heart attack does the most damage in the first two hours. The faster someone gets help, the better their chances of survival.