Treating a Heart Attack

When it comes to heart attacks, “Time is Muscle.” The longer a heart attack victim goes without treatment, the greater the amount of heart muscle that is irreparably damaged in the interim.

The American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association recommend that heart attack victims undergo a balloon angioplasty to open a blocked artery that is causing a heart attack within 90 minutes of admission to an emergency room.

Thanks to a highly trained team made up of community-based emergency medical providers, plus emergency room physicians and staff, cardiologists and catheterization lab employees at the Hospital, St. Clair has met the national guidelines 100 percent of the time, placing the Hospital’s so-called “Door-to-Balloon” rate among the best in the country and helping keep the amount of heart muscle damaged to a minimum. (Door-to-Balloon is an industry term that refers to the time it takes to treat a heart attack patient from the moment he or she arrives in the emergency room to the time that patient receives a balloon angioplasty to open any life-threatening, heart-damaging blockages).


Much of the team’s success is due to members of the various emergency medical services units who respond to 911 calls for heart attack victims. These first responders will fax an ECG or electrocardiogram (i.e., a record of the electrical activity of the heart that assists in the diagnosis of cases of abnormal cardiac rhythm and damage to the heart) to St. Clair. If the ECG indicates a blockage, the entire Door-to-Balloon team is alerted that a patient has suffered a heart attack and is being transported to the emergency room for immediate care.

  To learn more about a timeline for treating a heart attack, click here (PDF).

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For more information on Cardiovascular Services, please call 412.942.4460. 

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Mayo Clinic Health Information

Learn more about Treating a Heart Attack from our Mayo Clinic Health Information section