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Heart Attack

A heart attack, also known as a myocardial infarction, generally occurs when the blood flow to the heart is blocked. When blood flow is blocked, the heart can't receive the oxygen and nutrients it needs and can suffer permanent damage or death.

Heart Attack Info Videos

Plaque, Coronary Artery Disease and Heart Attack

Coronary artery disease is the major underlying cause of heart attacks.

Most heart attacks are caused by a blood clot that blocks one of the coronary arteries. A clot most often forms in a coronary artery that has become narrow because of the build-up of plaque along the artery walls. The plaque can crack and trigger formation of a blood clot.

Heart Attack Symptoms

Symptoms of a heart attack can include:

  • pressure or squeezing chest pain that lasts for more than a few minutes
  • pain that spreads from the chest to the shoulder, arm or back
  • prolonged pain the upper abdomen
  • increased bouts of chest pain
  • shortness of breath
  • sweating
  • fainting
  • nausea
  • anxiety

Heart Attack Symptoms in Women

Heart attack symptoms in women may differ or be less noticeable than those in men. In addition to the symptoms above, women may also experience:

  • abdominal pain or heartburn
  • clamminess
  • unusual fatigue
  • lightheadedness or dizziness

Quick Treatment for Heart Attack

From the moment a blood clot forms and a patient experiences the first symptom of a heart attack, a race against time begins.

With each minute that passes, the heart muscle is progressively damaged and the patient’s condition worsens. While the damage cannot be reversed, it can be reduced through the quick restoration of blood flow

Better than the national average

Because every minute matters, specialists in cardiovascular care at Memorial Hermann review every aspect of the treatment process - from patient arrival (door) to the start of treatment (balloon). With this process, Memorial Hermann hospitals have a time to treatment far ahead of the national average. 

The American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association have developed national guidelines calling for a door-to-balloon time of less than 90 minutes for hospitals that offer direct angioplasty. 

Advanced in Heart Attack Treatment

The emphasis on quality improvement has led to numerous advances in the management of heart attack, including:

  • An average time to first electrocardiogram of 6.2 minutes, consistent with the national goal of 10 minutes or less
  • Development and implementation of ECG transmission from the field
  • Tiered emergency response to dispatch more highly trained paramedics, rather than EMTs, to respond to cardiac emergences, such as cardiac arrest
  • Implementation of a paramedic squad to respond to high-volume areas of the metro area

What is "door-to-balloon?"

One of the most effective treatments for a heart attack is angioplasty, a procedure during which a small balloon is inflated to open blocked arteries. The time from when a patient enters the emergency room until the angioplasty balloon is inserted is critical. The lower the "door-to-balloon" time, the better the patient's outcome.

The First Citywide Network of Chest Pain Centers

When you are experiencing chest pain and possibly having a heart attack, every minute counts. Knowing where to go for the gold standard of emergency cardiac care can be the difference between life and death.

Wherever you see a Memorial Hermann hospital, you can be confident that the people inside are committed to providing world-class quality in delivery of emergency cardiac care.

Nine Accredited Chest Pain Centers

Each of the Memorial Hermann's nine hospitals now has an accredited Chest Pain Center, as designated by the Society of Chest Pain Centers (SCPC).Houston Chest Pain Center

What is an Accredited Chest Pain Center?

Accredited Chest Pain Centers undergo a rigorous evaluation process by the SCPC based on their ability to assess, diagnose, and treat patients quickly and effectively, clinical outcome statistics and comparisons nationwide. Currently there are less than 400 accredited chest pain centers, only representing 10% of United States hospitals.

Shortening Time to Treatment for Heart Attack Patients

Working in partnership with EMS, emergency physicians, cardiologists and critical care nurses, a Chest Pain Center's goal is to shorten the time from a patient's initial cardiac symptoms to treatment.

Patient Outcomes

Accredited Chest Pain Centers have been found to reduce the mortality rates of patients suffering from chest pain through a very specific protocol-driven and systematic approach which allows physicians to:

  • Treat patients more quickly during the critical early stages of heart attack, when treatments are most effective
  • Better monitor patients when it's not clear whether they are having a coronary event, which ensures that patients are not sent home too early or needlessly admitted