Diagnosing and Treating Heart Problems

Cardiac Operation

Coronary heart disease is a major health issue. Heart attack, or acute myocardial infarction, carries with it a significant risk of death. Unfortunately, too many people wait too long before getting help.

Play it safe — recognize these signs that a heart attack could be happening:

  • Discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that comes and goes; it can feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea/vomiting, breaking out in a cold sweat, lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Extreme fatigue
  • A sense of impending doom

Notably, women are more likely than men to experience symptoms other than chest pain or discomfort.

If you or someone you’re with is having what may be a heart attack, time is critical. Even if you’re not sure it’s a heart attack, don’t wait more than five minutes to call 9-1-1. It’s the fastest, safest way. Fortunately, Lowell General’s Heart and Vascular Center provides a comprehensive variety of cardiac care and services.

Heart Attacks occur when a coronary artery that supplies blood and oxygen to the heart muscle suddenly closes due to rupture of plaque in the artery wall and thrombosis (or blood clotting). This shuts off the flow of blood to part of the heart muscle. To stop the attack and save heart muscle, blood flow must be restored quickly.

Dr. Kirk MacNaught performs angioplasty in the Cardiac Catheterization Lab Opening a blocked artery to the heart involves a procedure called percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), or angioplasty link to service/procedure page. A tiny balloon is inserted via catheter to where the blood vessel is clogged; the balloon is inflated to widen the artery and restore blood flow to the heart. Often, a stent (a scaffold-like device) is placed to keep the artery propped open.

Lowell General Hospital provides emergency angioplasty services 24 hours a day/7 days per week/365 days a year to specifically treat heart attacks. Since approved to provide primary (emergency) angioplasty by the Department of Public Health in 2004, Heart and Vascular center cardiologists have treated over 1,000 acute heart attack patients with lifesaving interventions. They have also provided hundreds of non-emergent angioplasty procedures to reduce the risk of heart attack for patients coping with heart disease. In order to provide this life-saving procedure, the hospital has added an additional Cardiac Catheterization link to service/procedure page — lab at its main campus.

“With emergency angioplasty, we can open the closed artery in 90 minutes or less in almost all cases,” says cardiologist James Waters, MD. “It is important for patients to recognize symptoms and act quickly to get evaluated, which is essential for limiting damage to the heart muscle.”

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