Heart Attack (Myocardial Infarction)
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A heart attack, or myocardial infarction, occurs when there is a sudden blockage in a coronary artery. This restricts the flow of blood, meaning that oxygen-rich blood is unable to reach the heart. When the heart is starved of blood, serious and life-threatening damage can be inflicted on the heart muscle.
After the diagnosis confirms that the patient is indeed having a heart attack, the doctor will perform an angiogram to locate the position where the blood vessel is blocked. This is done with guidance from an X-ray. Once the blockage is located, the doctor will expand the constricted blood vessel using the angioplasty procedure; the method involves inserting a catheter through a blood vessel in the groin or arm, and guiding it towards the coronary artery. The doctor will then enlarge the narrow vessel by inflating a small balloon placed on the end of the catheter. This enables blood to flow more easily past the point where the vessel had been blocked. Typically, the doctor also inserts a metal stent to prevent the re-blocking of the blood vessel.
In cases where there are multiple constricted blood vessels, the doctor may consider coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG). This type of bypass surgery involves operating on the blood vessels connected to the heart by creating an additional channel to increase the blood flow in the area that is constricted, thus causing blood to move towards the heart with less resistance. In turn, this enables more oxygenated blood to reach the heart muscle.
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