What is a STEMI heart attack?

Knowing how to take action quickly during a heart attack could save a life or help you or a family member avoid permanent disability. That’s especially true in the case of a serious kind of heart attack known as a “STEMI.”

Diagnosing a STEMI

In a STEMI heart attack (ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction), a coronary artery in the heart is completely (not partially) blocked. The damage is so severe it causes electrical changes on an EKG, which alerts medical teams they must act quickly to restore blood flow to the heart muscle.

“On the heart attack spectrum, a STEMI is the one that’s the most concerning and time-sensitive,” explains Hazem Malas, DO, FACC, a cardiologist with ProMedica Physicians. “Since causing an electrical change implies it’s causing significant muscle damage, it’s crucial we start life-saving procedures right away.”

The national benchmark “door-to-balloon time” is used to measure the length of time between when a STEMI heart attack patient arrives at a hospital to when a cardiologist is able to perform a balloon angioplasty to get blood flowing again. Guidelines recommend less than 90 minutes.

“We often use the description ‘time is muscle.’ The quicker we act, the more improved our patient’s long-term survival will be — so the quicker, the better,” Dr. Malas says.

Leading Local Heart Attack Care

Not all hospitals have the equipment or expertise needed to treat STEMI heart attacks. ProMedica Toledo Hospital, ProMedica Flower Hospital and ProMedica Monroe Regional Hospital are all STEMI-certified Chest Pain Centers, which means they have a track record of success in terms of outcomes and survival rates. It’s a wide-spread effort that includes:

  • Local 911 dispatch and EMS personnel who are trained to recognize STEMI symptoms, alert the right hospital, start therapies and move quickly.
  • Emergency room and heart care teams, including physicians, nurses, technicians and support staff, who get ready for the patient and the procedures they will need.
  • The cardiac critical care unit team who prepares to help the patient after the procedure to ensure long-term health.
  • Advanced teams who stand ready to help with any complications, 365 days a year.

Providing this kind of coordinated, live-saving care is no small feat.

“It’s a huge undertaking from a community and a hospital perspective. It’s a privilege to be in this position where we can do these procedures, save lives and do so in such a safe and efficient manner,” Dr. Malas shares.

Taking Action for Your Heart

If you’re worried about heart symptoms, the sooner you get care, the better — even before a heart attack occurs. Seeing a doctor regularly also helps make sure your blood pressure, cholesterol and other health measures stay in check.

And don’t think heart problems only happen to other people. Too often, patients ignore or downplay heart symptoms because they’re otherwise healthy or because they don’t have a classic symptom like chest pain.

Dr. Malas urges you not to think you can shake or sleep it off. “The earlier you recognize you need help, and see your doctor or call 911, the earlier your symptoms can be understood, a diagnosis can be made, and your treatment can be started — and the more likely that whatever happened isn’t going to cause permanent damage to your heart.”

To learn more about heart attack symptoms and care, visit ProMedica’s website.